Eratio Issue 17




5 Poems for E·ratio


by Louis Armand





Light Gradually Descends on the Obsolescence Curve

(for John Kinsella)



Light gradually descends on the obsolescence curve, picturesque

as a statistical report slated for a whitewash. our camera

has captured for you a few aspects: night-time tracking shots

in a dockside container yard. the shipping lanes, hemmed-in.

old trans-Pacific news. Seduced by the progress achieved

in the domination of nature, the mass-acculturated cockstand,

the sweating surveillance eye… Same times found us in the same

places, living and acting otherwise. Somewhere a lost decade is

talking through a telephone. Now we are dark tunnels and

stairways underground, spent icons of roadless outcountry,

quondong fluctuations – pre-recorded Arnhem dawns above

stratospheres of cyclical downturn. What’s known. What isn’t.

A Darlinghurst Gauguin sketching portraits for a hit, the hungry

spoon, the Buddha face-down on a floor of broken eggshells

and Petri-dish insomnias. Give your vote to evolution.

Cruising through endless TV vistas looking for the big clue

to what’s going down. Northbound: the great convict ziggurats,

orbital night-signals lighting up and sometimes obscuring a sky

empty of response. Indian smoke-signals on Mars. Stun-guns

and UFO chorus-girl routines. Climbed to the top of the Bridge

to throw a spanner in the works, arguing with gravity.

It’s all happening out there on Retrovision. Yesterday only.

Zenga zenga, space junk, the absolute finito – next time pull up

your knees and try to be a door. testing the inhibitory reflex,

a grey verbal sludge of language smeared as upon a windscreen.

Warhol squeegee gangs hustling the intersections –Dogs in Space

mapping the escape route via welfare cheque deposit slip.

Time to get serious, the life of the body you’ve failed to cultivate,

the body you were born in and not some strap-on placebo.

Another monument to the lowest common dollar. Did you get

your free measure and quote? A portrait “in absentia” –

things that want life and may be kept… Like dental floss. Rain,

impinging upon sleeplessness and windows one after another.

Someone closes the door and re-arranges the furniture –

smells of cooking fat, ash, a stomach-like enclosure you belong

like an ulcer in. The future never looked rosier. Select replay.

In just fifteen minutes, you too can be all you were cracked-up to be.





Sotades the Obscene of Maroneia



Nine o’clock and all the worst yet to come –

May Day parades, Saturday morning horrors.

Been living in mirrors as long as you have,

dear. What’s life but a stumbling palindrome

in a lead-suit aqualung? And you call that a man?

Awake to another day’s ego-dissolving bliss,

I’ve condensed myself into a fraction

between matter and no matter. Hours pass

like rotten plumbing – the untolled village bell,

the ass in its stable braying – a pair

of all-night drunks earnestly at attention

before the crux of their patriotic God, whistling

while they urinate. How do you cross a line

drawn in water? Jacques Cousteau

of the depthless blank page – I am the whole

of my own autism: the world on its axis,

the poetaster’s wife, the perturbed length of a

human pratfall as it drowns and breathes again

and still drowns.





Tête de Femme

(for Ali Alizadeh)



An open window and morning out of doors

is a Bartók sonata with delivery vans and

dogs and pigeons in trees, the inevitable

end-of-the-world making background noise

arranged in arches, domes, minarets.

A city’s alter-ego is crying into its drink

like the woman you observe in a hotel window –

anxious hands create their own occasion.

But candour is a foreigner in time of war.

Chance encounters without witness –

midday, a deserted terrace along the strand,

the sea’s elaborate mosaic – her face

watching out of it in half-profile like a Roman

concubine’s. And would you bleed for your

own country? One word for any other word –

ships pass north into a scenery that begins

where the sky ends. There are worlds, supposedly,

much vaster. A one-thousand year ad-break.

Why seek what can’t be found? Behind

every clock, under every stone – the noise

of traffic coming closer, the sounded

note, the hectoring voice. The restored relation.





After Donald Friend’s The Outrigger (1974)



Windjamming between the reefs – a boy in a canoe

you lie beside in your mind, knotted blue hair,

loincloth undone as he turns about and rides you,

white shemale posed on all-fours, a four-posted

thatch hut and postcard figures cut out to form

a watching backdrop, static as Balinese theatre.

The ribbed canoe flexes against the breakers’

coercive uniformity; a snapshot makes the outfall

aesthetic. His mother, he says, was an orphan

of Dutch colonists. Brownskinned. For another

five bucks he’ll let you suck him off afterwards.

Through a chink in the wall you see the dogs

stalking the periphery – remedial demons, rust-

pelted, scavenging for morsels of proof that things

are indeed as they seem. The ceaseless grovel

of the waves. On the wall, a gaudily illustrated map

shows the route to paradise – but who can say

if what lies there isn’t cursed? The outrigger

turning back to shore, sun low in its arc, flash

of an oar. Each stroke, down-thrust, a purification.

But to stand in the light and not in the shadow

is no guarantee against the infinite evasions of glib

post-coital sentimentality. Was anything stolen?

Can you provide a description? The outrigger,

dragged up onto the beach among crab burrowings,

seaweed, brine – all the surrounding amorous

real estate pegged with for sale signs. Or you alone

are the island on which you walk, compass-eyed,

seeing only the X that marks the lost co-ordinate.





Object Lessons



They’ve taken down the statues, the portraits,

the posters with children: what’s left

is the quicksand simplicity of words turned

backwards, becoming the stuff of TV,

signal adjustments, talking heads. Their malady

exists solely for the sake of curing itself,

like penicillin on stale bread. Tobruk,

the dancing feathers of the ceremonial bird

exiled from its habitat. We set out for want

of territory, stakes driven into sand to pitch

a cenotaph. Nomads of the kasbah hunch

backwards into the storm, melancholy

figures shouldering TV sets – as unwatched

diatribes waft in and out of the frame, like scenery.










Louis Armand is a Sydney-born writer who has lived in Prague since 1994 and currently directs the Centre for Critical and Cultural Theory in the Philosophy Faculty of Charles University.  He is the editor of Contemporary Poetics (Northwestern UP, 2007) and of The Return of Král Majales: Prague’s International Literary Renaissance, 1990-2010.  His work has been included in the Penguin Anthology of Australian Poetry and Best Australian Poems.  His most recent collections of poetry are Letters from Ausland (Vagabond, 2011) and Synopticon (with John Kinsella; LPB, 2012).  He is an editor of the magazine VLAK: Contemporary Poetics and the Arts. 



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