The ones wearing suits


are the only ones with polished shoes catching wedged glimpses of the blue eye sky.  Their ties are well knotted and the women’s hair constrained like ostrich eggs on their heads.  We slouch by, wearing jeans, wearing ironic slogans like brands.  We are comfortable enough to slob; comfortable enough to break traffic laws.  We sip our coffees and flick through sullen mags; our thumbs fidget only on phones. We complain if we wait too long, and swear at meters mouthing our change like madeleines.

The ones wearing suits wait for the piece of paper from the ones behind that other counter (yes, those other ones sometimes wear suits, but beige and grudgingly).  Ah that I could unknot those papers! I say nobly to myself, as I sip my expresso, and watch those queuing, watch those forming a border around the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.  Framing my coffee with their neat ties of anxiety, their perfect, uneasily bunched hair.

P.S. Cottier


That prose poem was first published in Awkword Paper Cut (US) last year as part of an essay I wrote about writing, the Australian flag, nationalism and immigration, called ‘Mild flapping’.

I remembered it yesterday, as I was flipping through a Real Paper Paper, and came across an advertisement for a senior position at the Department of Immigration and Border Protection. It is obviously in the HR area, but the title given to the position is ‘Head of People Division’. I read that as the person responsible for drawing a line between those of us lucky enough to be in Australia, and those trying to make it here. People Division with the Border as the vinculum. Call me silly!

The poem above describes Lonsdale Street in Braddon, Canberra, where people on visas of various sorts in Australia go to a branch of the Department, often, it seems, trying to have their stay extended or made permanent. A couple of doors up is one of my favourite cafés, where those of us with citizenship sip our drinks and write poems.

And of course, there are the people we can’t see, locked up elsewhere.

I used to do a bit of book reviewing in The Canberra Times. Indeed, I once won $200 of wine in the ACT Writers Centre Awards for a book review, which was damned useful. My reviewing seems to be taking off again. Here is a link to a review of a book about ageing by Rudi Westendorp which was published recently. (Sydney Morning Herald site.)

Read the works of the other Tuesday Poets around the world by pressing here.

Tuesday poem: Falling through

February 23, 2015

Falling through

Suddenly enough, all the computers yawned, quick gape of electric jaws, and we fell inside their crocodile bytes. Gusting through googles of guts, airy programmatic colons, we were curtly expelled onto other users’ chairs. I am now John le Carré, and he has swapped Cornwall for my Canberra. He pecks up the slim crumbs of poetry, that elegant confetti of wordy Gretels, tracing back the route to nowhere known at all. He likes the sun-dipped cockatoos, the nestling hills, and the pungent gums; their leaves such shy apostrophes, punctuation in all four seasons’ sentences.

You’d think I’d favour it, being famous. Heaving shelves of unborn books with my name on them groan out to a midwife agent, so patient and alert. But anonymity has its charms of liberation, and cover stories (as John would know) can thin and fade, and sometimes even fray. For England, Cornwall almost has a Summer, or at least a Summer’s spritely maiden Aunt, out for a jaunt, recalling dead youth spent in War. I have felt something approaching happiness, writing of Berlin or terror on the cliff edge of this little island, staring out to frown of dark, deep grey sea.

I want to go home now, to space and lancet light, but this white dumb screen stays obdurate; locked square surface, on which so many best-sellers have been keyed. Teases of postcards beckon in front of portal mouth; I tempt it with treats to open up, chew, and spit me back. It likes this latest tray of toffees so tightly wrapped in silver. Now it quivers; a glassy jellyfish on firm dry sand of desk. Now

P.S. Cottier


Prose poem? Flash fiction? Unclassifiable weirdness? You be the judge.

I read somewhere that John le Carré does not write on a computer, but we’ll call that detail poetic licence, hm?

I hear that there has been a dead drop of poems here. Press this link and find out.

My skull peels back like a hairy banana. A hairy banana dusted with a coconut of dandruff, which confettis the floor. Inside I find the familiar lumps: the lobes raised into a fairy ring of concentric bumps. Those brain tits, as Jean calls them.

Pouting against bone
modestly encased in skull
my brain jiggles thought

My fingers locate the zips that hold the sims in place, and slowly — mirror work is always slow — I unzip the first bump nestled like an egg on the top of the brain. I am losing my ability to speak French, you see, and this sim is my language supplement. Rain and tears, dogs and hatred, have been running into each other like a water-colour; or as in the subtle distinctions between air and smoke and sea and ship that we see in Turner’s works.

French bleeding meaning
parapluie of sense
springing unwell holes

Easy then, to replace the chip, rezip, and close. Tomorrow the chemist. Dandruff clouds.


P.S. Cottier


This weird little thing was written at Au Contraire, the New Zealand Science Fiction convention,in the poetry workshop facilitated by Tim Jones and Harvey Molloy. The exercise was to write a poem describing a piece of future technology, and building it or taking it apart for the reader. Loads of fun! As my title implies, we had just ten minutes.

Two points: I don’t have dandruff. And I do wish I spoke French properly. I used a haibun form, which is not really French. But neither is it English. That is, in fact, three points.

My own work has dried up, slightly, as anthologising takes over my life, so it was nice to snatch ten minutes from the unrelenting maw of Other People’s Poems…

Click this feather. It will take you to New Zealand, which has been experiencing more earthquakes. At the time of writing this, though (and based on the news in Australia), there has been no loss of life or even serious injury in Wellington. Best wishes to everyone there at what must be a difficult time.

Tuesday Poem