Michael Brennan


Any Place To Go

It was days later. Not long after we left the convent
and the war stopped. I promised to take her
directly to the train station, but the sight of her
on the backseat scrambling out of that uniform,
and the highway opening up, well, what can I say
but we’re all sinners at heart. Neither of us had
any place to go and when I made my suggestion,
she crossed herself one last time, and wiggled her toes.
It was outside Oodnadata that we met Rodney,
holding the big red by the scruff of its neck.
I told him, ‘The butt of your cigarette is a refugee,
crossing to safety on your tired lips’ tide.’
He didn’t care for pleasantries, so we set about
the job at hand. Once the roo was staked out,
Georgia and I jumped back in the Holden. I watched
them diminishing in the rear-view mirror,
Rodney nursed the roo’s head, whispering softly.
When Georgia flicked the radio on and we heard
the ceasefire had broken, you couldn’t blame her,
or feel too bad about Rodney and his frisky red.
I told her, ‘The world is a song left out in the rain.’
She countered, ‘It is ash daydreaming its fire.’
I liked the drama of it, but preferred the way
the flesh of her lips clung briefly together
before she spoke, like loved ones embracing
and going off to war. I forget the details,
but remember the astonished faces driving past us,
mounted awkwardly on the highway’s curb,
Georgia’s sweet paddles waving out the car window,
her curled toes tangled in the cloudless blue.


From Town To Town

I should tell you, it’s nothing like home.
Not one of them thinks of me as a stranger,
but they politely welcome me to their houses,
and feed me delicious feasts.
I know, I know it sounds ridiculous.
After each meal, they stroke my eyebrows
and beard, and dry the tears that have run
down my cheeks over months travelling
from town to town.
They tell me they are strangers here,
hanging their word for such things
in the cool night air, between
the beard-stroking and the young eyes
of the oldest among them.
They say soon they will leave me,
but I am to keep feasting in their absence,
that someone will come and I must invite him in,
I must not say too much, but feed him
and afterwards dry his tears.
Before I leave him, I must tell him this
is his home now, that he is no stranger here.
They say, none of this is strange.
They say, they will wait for me in the next town
with their gentle hands and playful eyes,
that the train will take me there, and on the way
I can listen to the old man’s crying
and let the lightness of night find my face,
I can remember the feasts from home,
and wait for silence to have its fill.
They tell me, when we meet in the next town,
they will explain it all.


Coast Roads

Nipples hard as bullets, that’s how her way
With words put it. There wasn’t much
Left to say after that, with the ferry leaving
At four. Given good traffic, I’d be home
In time for the coup. I’d been holidaying,
Fixing fishing nets up and down the coast.
I always had a gift for such things,
Prone to long silences and spitting the dumby.
It’s sad to leave new friends but who could complain
if the conversation soured a little
Between talk of pet hates and hobbies. It’s true,
Like everyone, I like the sound of a kneecap snapping.
Am I criminal simply for saying it? Even so,
Janette ironed the lapels of my uniform, made sure
The gold braid sat straight, that the medals shone
Bright, appropriate given the circumstances.
You have to love the attention to detail,
Her eyes always on the big picture.
Driving up the coast road, with smoke
Gathering on the horizon, I still wasn’t sure
What her way with words was, but she did have
Plenty of nets to fix and you can’t complain about that.
I’m often staggered by the waste and carelessness
Of people, but was happy to be on the way home,
With plenty of heads ahead to crack, and the thought
of those hard nipples safely tucked away.



Michael Brennan’s first collection The Imageless World (Salt, 2003) won the Dame Mary Gilmour Award and was short-listed for the Victorian Premier’s Award for Poetry. In 2004, he was awarded the Marten Bequest Travelling Scholarship (Poetry) and a Developing Writer’s Grant from the Australia Council for the Arts. He directs Vagabond Press and is the Australian editor of Poetry International ‹australia.poetryinternational.org›.