Month: October 2013

Magic Death

The boy who hangs his story from the bridge.
As if in fairy tale told in detail to a desperate lover.
The bulging eyes of his spine
staring out a broken neck;
his story told in the lingering art of death. Or

he who faces the train to Ferny Hills
and each commuter who remembers
that day’s monotony interrupted as bits of him
slapped against the carriage like
someone throwing wet fish. Or

the pass-over traffic
grumbling at the fall of tragic demonstration – a
boy not welcomed anywhere except by the earth
that took him in with a kiss of bitumen. Or

balanced on needle point, a
thousand thousand weights pressing death
into an arm embracing the tv-cable guide and
a torn photograph of jennifer the mud wrestler.
And all this waste
sending little statistic waves of shock that don’t anymore.

Gone to sleep like the boys who left us.
Early sleep. Early rise and forget the
sons who disappear in a magician’s finale.
The cloak of social history that accepts this. And the magic
abra-cadabra of unhappy youth

Like Didi

Suitably respectable and never asking for
trouble or the time of day.
I wait at the station
like a cattle dog.

My master gone in the midst of a promise,
tells me I am ready for transit;
my bones wait for flesh
my theatre for Godot.

News on paper says a factory burns.
Expiry dates determine that wafer crumbles in its tin.
Apollo is a god who sends one of his chariots to the moon.

I’m ten years beyond birth already
counting ways to escape the infirmary.

Looking into this forgone conclusion
I peer over my shoulder at a leafless tree.

Will there be leaves on it one day.
Who can say.

I wait.
Like didi.
For what I mean



MChallis © 2000/2014

Friday Afternoon

the talk of heads
that all smile later
the fold of arms
the read news-paper

the bus stop
traffic, agitation
the driver’s late
the conflagration

the number plate
to run a red light
to have even tried

the ticket stub
the validation
the tender fare
the invitation

the glossy smile
the magazines
the expectation

relationships that pass
through glances, a
two-second sojourn
that takes no chances

the nameless faceless
careless farewells
the hollow echo of a
concrete stairwells

then finally
the door you seek
to hide behind
till Monday next week



MChallis © 2000/2014

A Night-Bird Sings

What night-bird sings across the river?
What bear of winter whispers
low and deep in the mouth of the cave?
And who is she who moves toward the many-mouthed artesian,
visible to clouds and stars who live in her reflection?

We stand on our heads
the world turns its duplicity to meet us.
Our imagination ventures
beyond and beyond,
and then rushes back to be with she
who has not yet released us.
She spins her arms in all directions;
our mother, who calls with the night bird and says
“here children you’re safe with me”.

We walk the southern bank of the Ballone.
Before the weir we see the river
mirror to all the world.
The weir-gates reveal her power.
Broken water announces birth
and friendship:
a turbulent opportunity to bright with stars,
to carefully wake the sleeping bear.

Firm in the arms of our mother
(suckling the river of all her children)
brought together,
an unseen strength
low and deep;
and the river with night bird, murmuring
murmuring and potent.



MChallis © 2014

Mists of Ruse

a bitter ache grows deep on this craggy soul
it rises up from stories old,
what once was fresh now seems so stale
and colours rich have begun to pale

memory stamps with heavy feet,
on dust and desert and ancient wheat

we broke our bread on precious stone
a king and queen of a comely throne
we spread our trinkets far and wide
as joy retreating with the tide

now resonate alone once more
while the children scramble at the door

the battle’s passed, no war won
the knitted knots cannot be undone
we wear the clothes of the newly spoiled
as the worried father bends and toils

the fathoms hot that began to fuse
are cooling now in the mists of ruse

the fathoms hot that began to fuse
are cooling now in the mists of ruse

MChallis © 1997/20014

Three Moons from Monto

Two friends circle the air
three moons from Monto
friendship is measured in wingspan
in the joined eye of hunters

Dusk before day break, a loud cloud red,
Overlooks a dark steer
as it stamps its metallic breast
along the great snake’s back,
a voice of rumbling rock
in a throat made for slaughter

Hearing this drown the language of insects
Peewees and Crows hop clear, but
the Wedge-tail Eagle is too late for soaring
and is stunned in the way
of its death

Now one friend circles the field

The dark steer moves on
hungry to interupt the silence

Two moons reach into night
and for a third up near Monto 2005/2014

MChallis ©

Boy Dreaming

In dust that walks
before the pale drive
of winter on Black Mountain

Beyond cold spidering shadows
where Cotter-River trees are with-holding
their names

In mist whispering
in the margins
of frost at Adaminiby

Up under bogong wings
collected in the granite caves
at Brindabella

I sense my dreaming

And wild pig foraging down-wind
south south-east of Franklin

The brumby kicking at
stars up on Scabby Ridge, where
lichen rock was a cradle

Mallee root nubbed into the fire
and the yarn over red-embers and billy-tea with
condensed milk sweeter than mother’s

And old Dido (grandpa’s labourer since time)
wearing bib and brace
pressing down hard
on tea-softened arrow-root,
his gums and fingers 
kneading the kind of tobacco that came in a tin



MChallis © 2005/2014


where cedar creek
love of river rock

my gaze follows
one wayward drop
sent further
by the breeze

the story
of this place
is kept by the rill
and told by
who chorus in screams

she sits
slightly away
I see her back
her hair

and the delicate way
her feet
touch the water

MChallis @ 2005/2014

Young Concretor

His fixed black eyes,
turned, like a mother’s to her sorrows
eight metres down in a hole
dug for concrete.

His workmates call hoarsely from the rim
but only see and hear
his nothingness

– “he was just here a second ago”

His neck is a broken spirit,
fingernails are torn away
he’d flayed against the earth
falling indefinitely for one and half seconds.

The young concreter,
carefuly finishing his glide work
at the edge of the slab
had stepped back to admire
the reflected perfection of the sky.

His mother receives the news before the slab
is no longer a mirror,
she pictures him falling and
thinks of the last time he called,

– “I only spoke to him yesterday”



MChallis © 2014

Sat and Listened

On the 4th of September some time ago now
I returned to an empty house,
a wall of anger ran through me and around me

It took a week for that wall to crumble,
standing at the cash register at work
anguish surging up from a deep well way down low.

For hours I sobbed and howled
in the office out back of the store
Evelyn the manager came and went
and when she could – just sat and listened.

3 days later my mother and father arrived
for 2 weeks they stayed
their child, the grown man needed care

mother cleaned all the shelves and cupboards
cleaned all the clothes and ironed all the shirts
father tried to find the answers
and in the end – just sat and listened.

After they went home, the house slowly lost their comfort,
shelves and cupboards returned to slight disorder and
one by one ironed shirts were worn, never again to feel the same.

Hanging in its place I left one shirt untouched,
now and again I would open the wardrobe
to feel my mother in the sleeve.

A decade later we are speaking on the phone
about the children
all of them young men now and mostly independent

you talk about wanting to see them more often
and it being hard to arrange, you tell me about your new man
and how things are working out.

In a moment of candour you speak of the past
it should probably never have happened.

Who would have thought that in the end
it would be me, who just sat and listened.

MChallis @ 2014

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