Degrees of Deception

David Atkinson is a Sydney poet whose work has been published in more than thirty magazines and anthologies in Australia (including Eureka Street, Quadrant and Tamba) and also widely in the USA. David's collection 'The Ablation of Time' is available through Ginninderra Press. Favoured areas for poetic exploration include the human condition and the natural world.

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Degrees of Deception




Exhausting day, a country drive
through starlit night, celestial calm.
Returning to the family farm,
his eyelids droop; a lad of five.


He drifts away, a formless heap,
spreadeagled on the car’s backseat. 
Conceives a plan, a child’s deceit:
when home, pretend to be asleep.


The beating tyres a lullaby,
the boy’s fatigue observed, unsaid.
Strong arms will lift him to his bed,
embrace of love, a dozing sigh.


Uncomplicated boyhood scheme,
before the guile of dirty tricks
now prevalent in politics.
A naive childhood it would seem.




Weeping Guitar




For George Harrison (1943 – 2001)


Imagine a rangy young mop top on lead guitar,
dream the virtuoso licks of a scouser;
he is flanked by more esteemed bandmates,
all in tailored suits, pointed black shoes.
When they were the fab four, 
except for mothers of teenage girls.


Visualize the baby face
at the centre of that famous rock band.
Take into your pores, absorb
the pings of the Fender strings,
the chord progressions and harmonies.
Inhale the heaving hysteria,
your toes tapping to the soundtrack of the 60s.
But you will detect the reserve of a kid 
uptight in the limelight.


By now you will awaken memories of Something
and you will be humming the riff of 
While My Guitar Gently Weeps.
Picture the days of longer hair,
the moustache of the disciple of mysticism,
spiritualism on a sitar, who brought Indian
classical influences to the west.


And when you are reminded of his death so young
you will be transported back to the tribute concert,
to the acclaim of his musical friends,
to his renaissance, encore as Dhani.
You will come to understand the lack of pretension,
the generosity of a reticent songwriter and vocalist,
to understand the essence of George.



The Authority of Survival




His tee shirt ‘No guns’ appears identical to the others,
orange pastel sways before him;
teenage physique too callow for the confidence,
bravado of leadership.
As he speaks, muffled words tentative into the megaphone
die as dust within the park.


The river breeze ruffles the eager heads of hair,
smooth against the skin; like a tide students stream,
a peaceful flow, fluid across Brooklyn Bridge.
Guy ropes stir under grasping hands,
the throb of a ferry below drifts on the odour,
redolence of a creeping tanker.


While the tyres of yellow school buses sing
along the freeways back to Florida,
televisions will flicker reporting 
the National School Walkout.
The pale orange-clad boy will feature,
sole survivor of the depravity of a February day.


National School Walkout, New York, 3 June 2018

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