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Michael Koro Galleries 29.07.2010

LOVE POEMS (series 1)
(for a performance at Michael Koro Galleries, Franklin Street, Melbourne, 29 July 2010, with Slawek Janicki and Kris Wanders)
Bedraggled, caught on the stairs
Crumpled as sheets are crumpled
Blue eyes, pale, unrelenting

A sort of trust

Stubble below the cheek
Ears precise
Disinfected ghosts

A time for clearance

Tousled hair, blond
The turn of the head southward, just momentarily

Yes, the slightest of gestures
The eyes register something but it will forever remain unknown

Love comes on a slow horse
A slow horse with swift eyes

Something whinnies
The grey coat extends a considerable way
Satiny, inviting the touch

See, nothing is yet resolved
We await the breath of wind
A sudden flutter

A blessing maybe, a whispered word
A vacuous thought
Something beyond thought
An intimation of goodwill

We may still be lucky
We may still be in luck


A van drives into the car park
On its side: Coffee lust

They fuck in the street
They fuck in the street, a pretence
Something like a fuck
A statement, surely, of intentions

It’s at the street corner
Not so much a street as a back alley

They had no expectation that they’d be seen yet they were seen

He opens with a smile
She smooths down the fabric of her skirt
Their tongues return to normal


Chants d’amour
Genet must wait

In the meantime
In the mean struggle of days
We note these things
Yes, we borrow the garbs of our condition:
The love of his life was an American
By name Gerard
A sleaze, a total drunk
A natural-born gossip
Inadequate in bed

Even so
Even so

Denied access to Britain for undisclosed reasons
Gerard was what was once called a bounder
But a charming one, yes, a charmer

He brought his lover joy and despair
Elation and defeat
(Let’s wave the white flag of surrender)

If suffering was his forte (inflicting it, anyway)
He recompensed his victim with an endless stream of plots
Real and imaginary

The ideal secretary he knew how to sack staff
And to get the best out of the domestics

They travelled the world together until
Gerard was suddenly no more

Regretted briefly and soon replaced

There was, you see, a loyalty of sorts but it didn’t run deep

Maybe that is the best anyone can expect


Oranges and lemons, not to mention that unendurable notion: the angel
(See, Rilke was wrong)

Yet we will attend, the alluring thing
That figure on the left
Back to us
Standing and reaching
With some strange binding in his hair
And poised for heaven

(No, I can’t see well enough,
I cannot possibly tell you what it is)

Ages of man
The old man in the background digging his own grave
The naked youth lying on the ground
The young adult who stands reaching upwards
The rewards of war, the rewards of labour
And a clothed figure, enigmatic, on the left

There is also, you might note, a rabbit

The short story makes hard work of it:
Natalia proposed that it would be charming to go on a trip that left out all the major sights, as Roussel is said to have done, who let himself be driven everywhere, but who never left the car, not even in Egypt, just pulled the curtain back a bit …

And then:
He (we can only assume it is Ralf) came running up the street towards me, waving his arms and shouting Felice. He had seen her in a car with three other women, had recognised her, and now … ‘They had no clothes on’, he said. Why this should disturb him I do not know.  Anyway he continued to show his distress. Eventually we were required to ring the police.

I am not sure what to make of Ralf
I have no idea what he makes of us


Keep them guessing
Keep your virginal soul to yourself
The guises of love you can never know for certain
Yet even so it is a matter of first sight

Porridge nor muesli, these are not the way of it
Breakfast cereal ain’t love


He donned his pyjamas for the street parade
(Hallowed be thy name)
He donned his pyjamas for the fourteenth time
(It was almost a habit, you see)
He wouldn’t demean himself further, he decided
He may have said something right out loud

It’s true, they all decayed
They all decayed but at unequal rates

The doorway to heaven opened and shut
The doorway to heaven squeaked open

And he remembered suddenly
Yes, the Botticelli drawings

Do you know them? Such a pity if you don’t know them
Rings of angels
And the fruit of thy loins, some guy called Salvador
Standing on the roof, near the chimney pots
A recent escapee

What prodigies are born in such poorly lit circumstances
What sudden surprises there are in such unlikely parts

(The sudden rhapsody of musculature
The sudden splendour of sun-bleached limbs and thighs)

You will note, they stroll together in pairs
The long and the short of it
The thin and the heavy build of it
As if
As if in mutual protection

(Life gives us succour, a paltry drip-feed for the most part)

We do not know what they whisper on the darker days
We do not know if their alliance is uneasy or not

There is nothing sterile in love
There is nothing sterile in these odd affections;
They keep each other company

Drastic, drastic
Tomorrow, yes, tomorrow
We may well ask what is next

Faces fall in decay
Lips sink
Eyes drown in favour of desperation

And they wait, they wait


Hi, ok, hi
The splendour of her limbs
The smoothness of skin
The slight discolouration along the spine;
She speaks in squawks
She speaks with a breathless something

He pauses

His thin lips are of a darker purple than hers
As if the true Lebanon has somehow migrated
As if somehow the boot is on the other foot

Children detect things
Equally, children miss the plot badly

Note the games of reproach and performance
The indifferent glances
The fleet moves of identification and sudden separation
As if the weight of the world threatens
As if the whole burden of being
Must suddenly
Be carried badly

A glass of water, please

A note on the ‘cello, if you don’t mind
Stand in the corner
Wave your tennis racket or some such object at the ways of the world

They shuffle plates around the table
They stand at attention
They each choose the sliver of meat that suits them most
They sail into the potato salad
They toss the green leaves of the salad with scorn
They shake the walnut oil before serving
They eat the occasional olive
They decline to comment further
They are caught in paroxysms of self-indulgence
They anoint themselves with oil
They type sad letters of demand homewards
They say things like ‘The woodcut on the wall is lovely’

It probably is not

Each chandelier glitters in the dark
They flick the light switch, just as a precaution

On the stairs she stumbles
She aches for a cigarette
Her lips purse

To those we present ourselves dowdily, let us make apology
Let us know the sins of our ineptitude
Let us stand on the balcony in silence
Let the leaves riffle in the wind, make a sound of flapping sheets

Old bones for sale, old bones
Pirate flags
Skull and cross-bones

And if in the sailing away something occurs
And if

Yes, you had your choices
You did what you did
You did these things for all good reason

It is you who betrayed yourself, don’t forget that
And yes, the others were implicated

You adore whom you adore
But do not ask us to bear the price
You adore whom you adore
But do not ask us to sweeten the desperate measures involved
You adore whom you adore
But do not ask us to iron your suit
Or to press charges

The girl in the street squeals
It’s a love call of sorts
A song of ineptitude

The body accentuates the thought
Chin pushed forward
A pointing of bone and gristle

For his part, he stands still
Still and impassive;
The shoulders are square

And if, suddenly, he should fall indifferent
Be not surprised
Do not dare to be surprised


At 86 his child will be 20
(The mother is a young woman, little more than a child)
The father is more vital than you think
He has plans

No, don’t ask him what they are
He will refuse, he will refuse to tell you

She embraces him
He fills her with an intense pleasure
She feels in the presence of God
She prays to her own infant Jesus

The new God is a loving God, she says

Grandfather Time ticks
We get slowly at the heart of things
We stretch our arms
We stretch our arms wide

We issue no blessing


‘I love Australia’
He puts his hand to his heart
(On or thereabouts)
And he doffs his hat
(Dips me lid)
It bears a message: ‘This is where it’s at’.

He’s a good boy, a glad boy, a proper patriot

The greater adhesions, the wider adhesions
The family broadened to the State
The State attired in the nation – and the flag
(Love love love)


Unfinished business
The incomplete series
The turned page that is never turned

We could say something trite, like ‘We are awaiting further developments’

This is a town in which I have never caught a train
But I have been to Highett and photographed the old house

Once she told me there was a high fence made of corrugated iron dividing the house from the canal
Yet even that did not stop the cat from falling

It fell as cats do not fall into the water

The mother stays in a home out near Frankston
We ate Chinese as part of our overnight stay
There was something wrong with the hire car, a leaking seal or something such
I remember the brother’s house and the pool of oil left as a sibling gift

Others might have said upstart, others might have used a more virulent terminology
Yet we survived
We survived that, and we survived other things

Yesterday she took a joy flight in a small aircraft
Tomorrow she may do something else

29 JULY 2010
john von sturmer 2010