Friday, November 11, 2011

a collaborative sequence

Shikibu Shuffle

Andrew Burke / Phil Hall

Murasaki Shikibu (973—1014)
Ornette Coleman (double quartet experiments, 1960)

Editor: One of those happy turns of fate brought Phil Hall, Canadian poet, and myself together in a Perth backyard about three years ago. He also hails from Perth - but his one's in Canada. We struck up a conversation, swapped poetry anecdotes and a couple of books, and kept in touch by email. Then I had a heart attack and was queued up for life-saving surgery. I just had to wait, unable to do much at all, kept alive by sprays and medical potions. To distract myself and to learn something of Phil's absolutely different poetics, we agreed to collaborate on a text. I wrote, he wrote, then we shuffled lines together to make a final text - actually, although I wrote 50% of this, Phil did most of the shuffling because he was so good at it! 


Whistling without charts

I praise all swoops and calls

old red-throat has come back
the gentle violin-maker to the countryside

a left-footer’s choir
all language metaphor

I air my tongue
and dream of placid jaws

bawdy songs once belted



Don’t play what’s there
play what’s not there

a Chinese dragon of smoke
wearing my dead friend’s clothes
above the marina

I stall on the floating bridge

and turn Schubert or Mingus
down low     upright in

the long paddock

gathers rain


I watch my chest
rise and fall in the mirror

nature in the raw

nothing I see or think
means anything to me

then I plan to tell you about it

and into each dull thunk
like lemon on fish

comes flugelhorn

a faint zing



playing harmonica

means nothing
down the laneways

is tuba backwards
sorrow of the jarrahs

and an open spit-valve
lining the suburbs

windrush through reeds

to rain 


The local gun range
swears black rapid-fire

but our sugar maples insist
circus     the only place

and yellow-jackets concur
(in mosques of spit)    

3 into 1     goes fine

our brains inter
connected     in their 

dome     sweet dome


Delighted by
homage to

the trap
of the outhouse
door open

twinkling lights in a grey sky

here to there
a wing and a prayer

a section of flight

the Flight Bros


Praise each new word

any word will do

on the child's lips
in the windrows

sacred proximity
moon moon

be our replacement
in the daylight sky

pale cuticle



Thinking wetlands
I say swamp

I say lake
as a trophy big-mouth

startled out of what I was    
leaps and smacks         

(Thoreau says pond)

ibis peck
the unlettered eye

in dry reeds


Silver wakes
biting into an apple

hanging off a tree
in weather     Newton
read it right

fence dotted
like manuscript
with white snails

written juices on skin

small autumn regatta


As boustrophedon
vines whisper     Ashbery

to my Basho

I’m light on
the distortion pedal

before pulling out all the stops
and switching to rock’n’roll organ

telling it
like it     TI is


Talking to the air

I break cobwebs
on the line

cello     kite     fishing

making lurid
the net result

while hammock hook shines

sun holds     motes float


Company gone I’m talked out

our opened lake-door takes wing

kingbirds nesting above the light
fat chicks     gaping     pleading

the oriole Jesus in drag in Tasmania
our woods-door opened leaps in chorus

peepers     gaping     pleading
an evasive poppy-seed furnace answer

come back silence I’ll try to listen

once more a single organism


Body rags
slouch toward

the poem
about the door

piano rolls at play

the o in poem
in memory’s chapel

not a knob
or halo


Worldly opinion
runs in the backdoor

God must be a Boogie Man

and out the front door

then walks in
through the wall
and sits on the floor

scant help to me
playing in my sandpit

looking for myself


To braid
plumbago blooms

with tuppenny turn-ups

to weave submerged antlers
breathing blue at their tips

with centaurs
in wheelchairs

our hymn
to abundance

and sense


Read more about Phil Hall at

1 comment:

  1. Stunning work, Andrew and Phil. Beautiful sequence. Thank you.