2 poems by Alexandra Fraser


Are you no longer interested

in quantum physics you asked

scrambling for a point of conversation

after three days in hospital       frail

and running out of time

no Mother     not so much    I said

turning the telescope the other way

Neanderthals are more my thing now

There is a type of macular degeneration

where a fine membrane grows across the retina

and some things become obscure     distant

using a local anaesthetic they could

peel it away

but with no guaranteed improvement

It doesn’t hinder the sharpness of your view

or your judging eye

The hospice volunteer helps you write your memoir

there’s enough for three books here she raves

I’ve had the stories of your life all my life

and have tried to let them slide away

but they are heavy

You were always instructing me on the necessity

to enjoy nature      fresh air     walking

to have discussions about quantum physics

Your hearing aid batteries are flat

I don’t feel like shouting about entangled particles

or spooky action at a distance

The hospital doc cleared your blocked oesophagus

my attitude must have stuck in your throat

I was the wrong daughter     as I lay around

reading novels     poetry      daydreaming

It’s the big birthday next year

I will be in the shadow of your hundred tiny flames


Hey Charles Bukowski

about your friendly advice to young men

if I may – some comments on your famous words

Sleep all day and climb trees at night sounds

typically teenage

they probably don’t need telling

Do a belly dance before pink candles

could be a laugh        could be a problem

Carve your name on her arm 

Honestly    what were you thinking?

But you did have one perfect line

Plant tulips in the rain

a metaphor for adolescence

The rain    the necessary rain 

tears    discomfort     nurture

that planting of potential    in hope

of the upright strength

the flamboyance of the grown man

(alas for those poor buried bulbs that lie

hidden in sodden ground a whole lifetime)

My boys        be the one who can

travel to Tibet but      chooses not to

Wear blue suede shoes    in irony

Camels are okay to ride but

it’s typical tourist stuff      instead

ride a horse     saddle or bareback

groom her

walk her in clover

pick out her hooves

jump gates for the flying exhilaration

of life

Don’t kill your dog

Be the one who writes poetry

with your every muscular action

your moving grace

your smile

your every soft word

Note: Written in response to Charles Bukowski’s ‘Friendly advice to a lot of young men’.

About the contributor

Alexandra Fraser is winner of the 2017 New Zealand Poetry Society International competition. She has published two collections of poetry, Star Trails (2019) and Conversations by Owl-light (2014) (Steele Roberts Aotearoa). Her work is also published in magazines and anthologies.

Related Articles

1 Poem by Geoff Page

Australian poet Geoff Page gives us pause in this wryly contemplative depiction of our demise in ages past, ‘before the age of masks’.

One poem by Kit Willett

There is a wistfulness to this playful postmodern piece by New Zealand poet, Kit Willett, which will haunt you long after you’ve finished reading it!


  1. Great riposte to Bukowski’s toxic masculinity – boys and men can be gentle, curious, loving and creative 💚

    ‘Entangled’ has a heavy quality to it – a sense of tired waiting. Echoes of the weighted stories and the demands of both being nurtured and being the nurturer.

  2. Someone said ‘everywhere I go a poet has been there before me’. So it is with you Sandra. Been there but only looked. With these beautiful words I can now see clearly beyond the outlines. Have both your books beside my bed and often dip into them for clarity and calm and wonder in my life.

More Like This

2 Poems by Frances Olive

Sydney based, Frances Olive

New Poetry from Irina Frolova

Irina Frolova is working on a bilingual pocketbook of poems to be published by Flying Island Books/ASM/Cerberus Press later in 2020.

Body Shaming by Michael Aiken

Michael is the owner at Garden Lounge Creative Space, a poetry in Newtown.

2 new poems by Paul Williamson

Paul Williamson is author of five collections, including the recent Edge of Southern Bright (Ginninderra Press, 2017).

Poetry by Eugen Bacon

Eugen Bacon’s work has won, been shortlisted, longlisted or commended in national and international awards, including the Bridport Prize, Copyright Agency Prize, Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Award, Australian Shadows Awards and Nommo Award for Speculative Fiction by Africans.