Observed constraints

This house I am temporarily inhabiting has so many walls.
We fought for our freedom to build.
Difference between a wall and a fence: you can see through a fence.
Which is crueler?

This is nonsense; this is a lie; this is a paradox; this is a theorem.
Once I got free I wanted back inside.
In the prison things were calmer after the razor wire was installed.
You have to know the gate and how to get a key.

I will not call them laws; I will call them observed constraints.
I could climb it without much difficulty.
Freedom is the fluid swirl of a complex system obeying its mathematical laws.
Dignified persons do not climb it.

In my old country some people are remembering how to build the old walls.
Everything we build is subject to entropy.

First published in Creatrix 50, Septembeer 2020


This dropped
as a bird fluttered free
from a claw. This:
black waves, soft sines
gathered and stitched
along a wand. This

is not an artefact. Between
its closed hooked ranks
its flaw, a slit, diffracts
the light. I long
to give the smooth folds
of this to my fingers, take
its intricate truth, but if

I caress, my adamant
digits will unrender this,
unpick, unzip, split, crush,
scramble its whispered Is.

On the turned face
of my fist, with the breathy tip
of this, I tickle the trace
of a wish.

feather: it's a feather poem

From A coat of ashes.
First published in The Authorised Theft Papers, the Australasian Association of Writing Programs’ 2016 conference proceedings.
Proudly included in the Western Australian poetry anthology Recoil 10: Ten Years of Perth Poetry Club, Mulla Mulla Press 2019.


The Tao that can be trodden is not | The random clicks of a geiger
All in the world know | Sun flung spangles, dancing coins
Not to value and employ men | Through very short times of space
The Tao is the emptiness | Between the bones of my temples

Heaven and Earth do not act | Their books do not proceed
The valley spirit dies | The mountain spirit rises up
Heaven is long-enduring and earth | Of newly-minted leptons
The highest excellence | Spun in a synchrotron’s shining turn

It is better to leave a vessel unfilled | Or leave it out in the rain
When the intelligent and animal | Meet, the ands are given back
The thirty spokes unite in the one | For thirty years of protest
Colour’s five hues | Music’s ∞ harmonies

Favour and disgrace would seem equally | Luminous compared to concrete
We look at it, and we do | Nothing we don’t know how to do
The skilful masters in old times | Had cunts that curved space
The vacancy should be brought | To the feet of the blonde-eyed anarchists

In the highest antiquity, did not know | The arguments of men
When the Great Tao | Counting the sounds of an acausal realm
If we could renounce our sageness | Without going bankrupt
When we renounce learning | And watch repeats of a reality show

The grandest forms of active force | Are all derived from hunger
The partial becomes complete | For something even more precious
Abstaining from speech marks him who is | Who truly glarks the light
He who stands on his tip toes | Still can’t reach the bulb

The mathematical symbol in line 12 reads “infinity”.

The left-hand half-lines are the opening words of each of the first 24 chapters of James Legge’s 1891 translation of the Daodejing, selected according to a metrical pattern. The italicised lines on the right are quoted from the following books: Einstein as Myth and Muse, by Alan Friedman and Carol Donley; A Key to Modern British Poetry, by Lawrence Durrell; Ulysses by James Joyce; lemon oil by Jackson.