LES WICKS                      


This is the first time I've written in a cardigan,
hard to go deep when
surrounded by the pink noise of renovation.

Tell the child
to reach down beneath water, open
her eyes to breathless for splendour
barriers of skin set loose on open horizon
every cell sending stories to the intent listening mind.

But most children won't go easily,
you can't just throw them in
because we fear the deeper
our cars & bills & telephones
leave us humming in the home.

At 45, you're wrapped in the warmth
of the odd thing done
but unable to sleep beneath the floodlights of your insufficiency.
Your overgrown garden, the 12 foot fence.

A Small Peace to the North

1. September 1999.

Here the clouds & horizon loiter
sharing smokes, spring sunshine.
Traffic lights roll through their routine -
cars watch rapt, submissive as children.

Young women in accidental public school uniforms sit down for term exams,
clerks count votes in the local council elections.
Timor is far away & we pacifists are calling for the troops.

Those who flee the history
leave us to dress theories.

Outside, kookaburra battles magpie.
The prize is a nest, survival - the dire mundane.

2. January.

They're there 3 weeks then it's all TV.
Distributing thongs, tasteless Australian rice.
Here at the end of linear time
someone invents flares or cowboys every three years.
So now we've won one, Vietnam's bruise
fades to red white & "do it for the troops" concert blues.
"WIRANTO SUCKS" is funny.

War may have been difficult once.
There's often a bayonet
in little leaders' fists...
power insists you act, move, "initiate".
Like strippers, rulers are run by an imperative of verbs
the tyranny of eyes.
An army can find new work in all kinds of places.

3. February.

Beneath sand they find
filthy cotton & fragmented bone.
Factory line forensics
& the numbers always come up broken.

Timorese are queuing for jobs
while generals choose to celebrate
this normality.

4. Cheers.

A tiny new land invents its civil servants.
Talk of taxes laid like quilts
to keep its people warm.
Streets are cleared, homes rebuilt about the buried dead -
the intricacy & drear of all births.

Every day american bombs
still garnish Iraqi land. But in Dili
socialists discuss the need for market stalls.
Beneath a microsoft sky
we all pretend our independence
but still cheer a rising hand
from the heart of the crowd.

5. A fighter come down.

I had no idea that the land was this cheap
when we left for the hills
to defend it.

Timor did not thank me
as I coaxed her to life.
She took my money, my youth.
Now middle-aged & she
is newborn. What hope for a marriage like that?

The bumbling foreign soldiers changeover to wear blue caps
like they have the sky for a head.

I do not want a job in state security,
would go back to my village
but smoke rose like a signature
on a treaty for giants.

Bananas & fishing. Basilio (militia pig!) is hiding in the west -
his wife Huanita keeps thoughts to herself, some plans in the town
But she is lonely no more.

My guns grow lazy beside her soft bed."

6. Roar, September.

Manuel wheels his old yamaha down to the square
where the one streetlight celebrates this drip fed normality.
Amidst everything else, his struggle
to find parts - so a pedestrian for almost a year.
But he's merging two wrecks
& by public electricity he's got a working carburettor -
pleading with corroded nuts, asthmatic wiring.

Armoured car whirls past, Huanita's new bakery is teasing the town with
Yes! The engine kicks over.
For a while happy endings
are congregating all over the island
till the guns are firing again.

A chinese restaurant burns in Dili (indigenous protection refused).

The occasional olive drab body
mailed home to its country like a postcard

saying the ways of men do not like endings much
& nothing here is finished.

7. Joining the community of nations

Then it's like the wildest lover
doomed to wake up, zip into
nylon office grey, conscripted
queues at windripped bus-stops/
commute to world of serviced debt,
politicians' deceit of choice,
large company poker.

No one writes about another country's water pipes,
her stories become obscure
bar one remaining cloud on her thigh
from the remembered sweat,
contractions & infractions of undressed valour.



Les Wicks' books are "The Vanguard Sleeps In" (Glandular, 1981), "Cannibals" (Rochford St, 1985), "Tickle" (Island, 1993), "Nitty Gritty" (Five Islands, 1997), "The Ways of Waves" (Sidewalk, 2000) & "Appetites of Light" (PressPress, 2002).

....assembles an amazing cast of people in recognisable often dark places. With fine detail, their domestic & working lives are brilliantly portrayed. - Anthony Lawrence

He's performed at festivals, schools, prisons etc. Runs workshops across Australia & is editor of Meuse Press which focuses on poetry outreach projects.