This one is a Christmas poem, just published at Verity La.

The poem is about reugees. It’s important to remember those excluded and shunned all year, but it’s particularly pertinent to Christmas, when God took on the form of a child born in a stable. The outsider became the centre of the story.

There’s another poem at the site about climate change and specifically, the Great Barrier Reef. An enormous number of future refugees will be fleeing the effects of climate change. And destroying the lives of other species is inexcusable, too.

God bless us, every one! Have a wonderful Christmas.


She would surely
free the refugees —
but mostly those
with nice table manners.

P.S. Cottier


Based on overhearing a conversation at a café about how ‘we’ could take in more refugees if only they would ‘assimilate into mainstream society’.  I said nothing, but write this in true esprit de l’escalier.   It’s almost an aphorism, rather than a poem, isn’t it?


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.

Abbott’s booby

December 3, 2011

Sorry if the word ‘booby’ misdirected you here.

This is another poem about Tony Abbott, leader of the Liberal Party in Australia, which is similar to the Conservative Party in England, in many ways.  (Here’s the first one published on this blog, relating to climate change.) I recently had a poem about Australia’s attitude to refugees who arrive uninvited published on Eureka Street, remembering the dozens of people who died last year, smashed on the rocks of Christmas Island, an Australian island that is no longer part of Australia for immigration purposes.  That poem featured the Christmas Island crab.  This one draws links between another native of Christmas Island, Abbott’s booby, and the Leader of the Opposition.

Abbott’s booby

This poem regurgitated itself into my mouth —

a sardine of ill repute, silver little slug.

Abbott’s booby is a native of Christmas Island,

flying around and around.

Its cry is unmelodious,

unfit for any proper idyll.

It picks up stray ideas

and smashes them onto rocks.

(It is in league with the crabs.)

It is a member of the Gannett family.

And there, the useful metaphors run out,

like a big country’s generosity.

For this is a large, graceful bird,

once it has struggled into flight,

and it only troubles the wind.

It is unrelated to the budgie.

It is endangered.

Others, though, are entering their prime.

Oh silver, stinking poem,

shoved down a gagging throat.