The Guide*


Ian Gibbins





You imply a pre-existing condition invoking love,


      loss and discovery in equal proportions,

           at any time

      of the year, seasonally adjusted or not,

           at any point

      in the more or less visible spectrum,


as though we are holding hands, tongues, reservations,


       together, our breath, tight, fast, back.


Such is the consistency of football scores, a broken


      Kakadu nectar, Martha’s discarded

           woollen greatcoat,

      empty space, empty space,


unless, of course, you praise the consolidated revenue

   from inopportune

      acquaintances gathering unseen on verdant


      beside a river flowing at light speed

           through the

      boundaries of the Milky Way,


or likewise rouse dormant semi-autobiographical


      hibernating Scandinavian strawberries, inexplicably

           vexed blue-tongue lizards,

      feverish basalt embankments, count them,

           deny paradoxical

      intervention, write them out for later.


Meanwhile, try to bake a perfect lemon sponge cake,

   to ignore

      haranguing parts of speech, an onslaught of

           short-changed hours

      and over-priced mountain devils. Can you taste

           the difference

      on your fingertips, on the frayed collaborations

           of your eyelashes?


Think about calculus, atomic numbers, Latin,


      Jackson Pollock, the Melbourne Cup,

           parasitic invertebrates,

      collapse, redundancy, the shape of


      breakdown, obscure its brawn, its mass.


Then we will do Luna Park, the Velodrome,

   Sex Pistols,

      the Strzelecki Track, but only when star-struck

           satellites have ceased

      observation, flying foxes and migratory swans

           are listening in.


Unaccountably demand a ransom, the time

   of your life,

      his attention, should you doubt it for a minute,

           should the sun fade

      noiselessly to a clear sapphire sky, another

           moon-spun afternoon,

      her glacially warm embrace.


Easy, really. Complicate nothing.




*The verbs beginning each section follow those in “How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading” by Mortimer J Adler & Charles van Doren, Touchstone Books, (1940 / 1967 / 1972), Chapter 15, Section “How to Read Lyric Poetry”.  Their original order has been maintained. 










Ian Gibbins is a poet, electronic musician and video artist, having been a neuroscientist for more than 30 years and Professor of Anatomy for 20 of them.  His poetry covers diverse styles and media, including electronic music, video, performance, art exhibitions, and public installations, and has been widely published in-print and on-line, including three books with accompanying electronic music: Urban Biology (2012), The Microscope Project: How Things Work (2014), and Floribunda (2015) — the last two in collaboration with visual artists.  Ian Gibbins is online at