James Walton- Poetry

Rap, rap, rap, rap, ill tidings call

It came like rain on windows
a specimen in a jar,
the lid too tight for breathing.
I fumbled through the program
how those Austrians can dance,
but it was only distraction.
Among the seals from Kaikoura
the black sand of carbon footprints,
your South Island smile.
Brushing your hair at the station
how it fell fell fell fell,
my hands these brittle things.
Only yesterday I cleaned the drawers
the orange oil won’t let go,
sorting through the ones to send you.
The old farm by Tarra Valley Road
tree ferns bowed down after snow,
the forever of a late Winter’s day.
I’ve spread them out like a Tarot Patience
readings given brazed futures unheld,
tenets of lapsed things holding to landscape.
Now they have nowhere to go
caught as they are in the what of it,
while I think on the eulogy your children ask for.


from the north hide

the black swan soothes a promenade
bills through a pennon of underwing
a swamp harrier dallies in pirouette
as echidnas scowl their annoyance
a dauntless of pardalotes
whizzes to my ear
my season’s first tiger snake
alive to water sways a ripple
frogs all bassy spruce
echo themselves
a rebound of Spring sky
laughs back at a sprawl of sedge

where a frame of sleek water
breaks by a fatal leap
a smile of grey herons cast lives
out of this growing warmth
the wagtails and wrens weightlessly
jete a jete on the floating bank
the arcade oil by tea trees
lets go the thrush’s call back
to a place I cannot bring focus


First, 1975

The first drive east. Out past dauntless new
suburbs scattered like a teenager’s room.
Asleep in the future. All that aspiration watching
from the cosy dissemble of the city’s embrace,
but curled like a cat, the tail flicking impatiently.
My first car. The HD station wagon
early morning, no other traffic –
the world in hibernation except for us.
Pages turned quietly in a slow read, no frantic jittery
cartoon of flipping characters, the year after colour.
Through towns only read about, where lakes enter sea
and you were talking of how your sisters
all wanted to be the first to cry ‘beach’.
We promised never to have straphanger days,
travelling in a capsule of repleting dawns.


Boldrewood Parade

I think I finally see clearly
out of those trespassed estate streets
where the sounds of looking
are dusted over by unmade roads
like some early Drysdale,
a veteran’s emphysema in a backyard shed
skew whiff late afternoon shadows
stretched children playing cricket
the warty rabbitoh
with all his skinned specials,
next door’s son dying of knife wounds
on a rotting front porch

later they used tweezers to pull the fragments out
saving his parents some grief
when laid out for relatives to bathe,
from under the kitchen table
listening to women in scarves talk
my mother’s cigarette burns
to my hands were always accidental
I have to be sure of that.


Butterfly Leap

I split wood today
and as the autumnal rush
of orange moths hovered
thought about Kathleen and her trapeze
holding on eight years old
shipwrecked in the ditch between tours
an elemental balance without wings
ballet slippers gripping toes out
in a child’s swotting focus
al dente to waves no fear in the twist
a dance of agile insect bearing
throw of body an insolent somersault
held steady on the tightrope
circus and animals going down
the Tasman Sea no safety net
pulled herself out to a life boat
untethered so free of harness
as merchant sailors span their tales
on the Wellington to Melbourne run
stooped and Galapagos
picking her up from Thornbury
a great grandmother to Sunday roast
she finally told me the mystery
of perpendicular flight

About the contributor

James Walton
James Walton was a librarian, a farm labourer, and mostly a public sector union official. He is published in many anthologies, journals, and newspapers. He has been shortlisted for the ACU National Literature Prize, the MPU International Prize, The William Wantling Prize, the James Tate Prize, and is a winner of the Raw Art Review Chapbook Competition. His poetry collections include ‘The Leviathan’s Apprentice’ 2015 Publish and Print U.K., ‘Walking Through Fences’ 2018 ASM & Cerberus Press, ‘Unstill Mosaics’ Busybird 2019, and ‘Abandoned Soliloquies’ Uncollected Press 2019.

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