Archive for November, 2015


In Paris on late Sunday afternoons

the boulevardes were usually deserted.

All the mannequins in the coiffeuses stores

stared out at all the people not passing.

(written 2007; in memoriam, Paris, Nov. 2015)

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L.A. holds out to me the long & needy arms of her freeway platitudes

a toothless girl called Sal with a spiel well-rehearsed who says

I know where you got the shoes yr standin’ in

There’s no way she does though I

hand over loose change before she’s had a chance to tell –


there’s a winter sun on Venice Beach

salvation on Desolation Row

city-ouskirts somewhere in sepia-tone

old shanty places held up by a few old Joes

refugees from the American 20th Century

drinkers junkies hobble-leg artefacts of

edge-of-the-world retro-romanced

comfort in the end-of-things

cigarettes at the gas station     forty years unchanged

Edward Hopper coolscapes   Sinatra clones smoking on

midday-sun corners     street whores

no customers    no men with any sex in them –


we walk the crackt streets of l’America

dusty diesel-choked at sundown

chasing a bleak deliverance     dull mercury in the veins

those grey realms where old music comes thru the floorboards

chains rattling on the barn doors       snakes in the toilet

scorpions in the light-globes      shattered places

fracture-lines spelling downhome incantations on the peeling walls

love-wails across eerie fields of animals, feral folk, accordions

Uncle’s old Madam who smiles from the hallway

wartime radios signaling hatchet news –


in the catalogue of infamy she’s not quite null & void

watches daytime TV – b&w – with the sound turned down

between the starched white-collar sprawls of protestant dementia

and regions of true bygones where everything that lives

on the yellow-brick road never quite leaves it

where time comes out of nowhere and goes back into nowhere

and you have to toss to work out

which side is heaven which side hell

both as true Panavision as the other

ghost-town of entropy

still-life set in sepia and acetic acid

spangled brigantine in an opaque pyrex womb

that’s weather’d the storms of a hundred years but

never fades in its shoddy cocoon

homunculus of quiet doom

still blind and grasping in the amniotic fluids

a graffiti Bastille        a sin-bin

not quite a decent gulag

where the fast-food joints & used-car yards


boardwalks littered with stale porn and

the invalid I.D. papers of missing persons –


metabolise this world disintegrating behind

steel-chrome scaffolds of righteous intention

imp-recidivist George W. Bush with his

chipmunk-voice men in jogging gear

feinting calypso of the hidden men

and Afghan sequestering in Guantanamo Bay

play no-rhythm maracas to the

Nostradamus roulette of happenstance

not seeing what I see though we see the same things

subjective fallacy flying through

uranium-yellow advertisements for postmodern subversion –


the ceiling-fan repeats the same refrain

shadows cast in different keys on the wall

victim of subterfuge

Monctezuma’s hoedown on the grand-slam speed-circuit

bats flying through haloes of halogen lights

millennial cheering stadiums erupting in

clinical bathroom interiors

a single Coke bottle that’s been rolling relentlessly along

the curbs of your mind since one grainy afternoon of the year 1933 –


Sal don’t live here anymore

Sal don’t live nowhere

she’s homeless

she gone walkabout

seeking the sacred edge

she got Oprah on the brain

morphology in the hand

a boyfriend who’s gone to handgun heaven

she brews a good short crucible in the Lackawanna Café

plays pool with the hired hands from the badlands

hitches horses to the Hogshead Tavern

ethanol vapours subduing redneck disputes in gulch of rusted sorrows

Rita Hayworth & exercise videos & heroin wars vying attention

for the bride-in-black and white-collar users of

convenience stores and $5 peepshows –


Sal don’t live here anymore

how many times do they tell us

megaphone fantasists broadcasting vice & ruin to the Mormon enclaves

exhausted in the sitcom afterglows of her opiate afternoons

hung-drawn-‘n-quarter’d by the jump-cut transformations of

security forces goose-stepping silent by the book

jut-jutting from Vietnam-Gulf War apocalyptic

Jesus-repairmen airing the bloody sheets of resurrected pain

wonder of wonders you’ve come to us again

second visitation of the forsaken man

sexed-up with hellsbane and gold

o beg in the palm of Mammon’s gain

swallow the shame of stockmarket billions

under the hallowed MacDonald grin

sulphur kissing the drain –


Sal doesn’t have anything to say

advertising poisons broken her tongue

stolen her feeble thunder

slipping down century’s edge

wet shoes hanging to her feet

her eyes industrial in the gloom

heaven-sent to serve how many years in the zone of pink neon

mannikin-escapades beckoning pendulous memories

in little-girl afternoons

but she doesn’t lack for anything in the Lackawanna Café

buffalo and incubi hanging off the wall

the death’s-head that stares in on the portals of forgetting

there’s no seaside in her little conch shell

only a string of fake pearls tinny jukebox songs

hypodermics of innuendo married to the talk-show mind

terrible frauds of lacklustre 4th-dimensional TV jamborees

hootenannies of the jawbone

jew-harp prodigies mouthing stand-up prophecies at

strung-out lights of the L.A. day –


there’s a mix-up on the media

scratching antenna waves and shadows that shout

secret codes of liminal delight

whole flocks of surrenders

bodybuilders     Rastafaris     heliotropes

leather daydreams   Day-Glo diversions

chewing-gum sonorities


Billy the Kid reconstructions

& eternally the shopping malls


Honey, you got them shoes yr standin’ in right on Venice Beach, doncha know?


Sepia. Tones. Radio static in the gut.

But I can’t remember the last rites.


Star-spangled chatechisms absurd.

Tell them for me

could you.



(California, 2002)

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Laccadive Sea


(in print in Australian Poetry Journal, Vol. 5, No. 2, 2015; online at http://apj.australianpoetry.org/issues/apj-5-2/poem-Laccadive-Sea-by-Martin-Kovan/)


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