Second-hand trader


I learnt from poet and judge John Bray

our second-hand car trading laws

derive from Roman law for the selling

of cows and chariots. Nothing really changes

poets still tinker with the poem salvaging

what they can from towaways, dropping in

a transmission or exhaust manifold, forever

screwing and tweaking the carby. Anything

to make it hum again. Publishers sniff around

the engine bay. Have you got a cracked head?

I once sold the family sedan for $15. A sky-blue

Datsun 120Y with crumpled rear. I spent

the money that same evening on a book of poetry

by John West. I handed him the only $15 we had.

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Reading Tu Fu late at night


It’s nearly midnight

the family asleep

Christmas night

I’m reading Tu Fu’s poem

“Hundred Worries Gathering Chant”

and sipping whisky.

Suddenly an explosion

at the front door.

I run outside

without glasses

to watch a firecracker

launch in flashes of red and blue

above an empty street

as I scan for kids.

Awoken, my wife calls me in

my daughter and cat

now up. They go back

to bed as I try to pick up

where I left off.

The next poem is titled

“Autumn Wind Ravaging Thatch House Song”

and Tu Fu rages at a band of youths

from the south village

stealing his rooftop thatch

blown off in the wind.

At fifty Tu Fu is too old to give chase

and the kids disappear in the bamboo.

I too am fifty and sip my whisky

while Tu Fu leans on his cane and sighs.

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