Archive for the ‘poetry’ Category



published (print) in Southerly Journal 76.1, “Words and Music”, Oct. 25, 2016.

pdf: Cerberus

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She would say, just to me,

that she heard the language of

two hundred years hence, but

knowing none would understand it

held back from putting pen to paper.


Just tell them, she said, that I

heard them all before they came

and how they all faded long after.

She knew enough to know she was

neither liar nor truth-teller. Because


she was a passing acquaintance

I believed every word she said.



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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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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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Trade Routes

poem, in Westerly 60:1, July 2015: http://westerlymag.com.au/issue/60-1/



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In Cambodia the kids had never

heard of the Holocaust; in Thailand

they thought Hitler was a god. They

knew Drupal and di Caprio, the shopping-

malls with name-brand goods come  all

the way from China. Musselmen on boats

kept drowning, but iced poppies were still

bursting like bubbles of necrosis in the

high skies over the Golden Triangle.

Further south, and west, they had

their own pariahs, but the failed imperial

glories only proved the rise of the prophet

in his flawless canter through time. Space

was only a densely-peopled matter of time

as well, his promise a foregone conclusion.

Sweatshop illegals in the

hinterlands could fill in the blanks, if the

capital wasn’t forthcoming. To become

a state secret was not always a fate to

malign; look how many of them

had made history.

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Bodhi trees

arching above these

pilgrims to a shrine

see everything come & go

child’s balloon floats

up to some empyrean

far too high for retrieval


always come.

Buddha        not an Icarus

who made wings of his mind

had nowhere to fall

bodhi leaves        gathered

at his feet.

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Still Life

Woman on the other side who

coughs like a sick cat. Stale

rain & fish-paste, frying

chilli through the broken

window-frame, true dreams

imbibed in needless sleep.

Burmese cleaner who knocks

on the door—temple dancer make-up,

a single beauty spot, spunglass hair

in a net, does the toilets twice a day,

been here a thousand years. He chews

betel always & has a catalogue of smile

that outlasts the marketplace. Some

kind of Buddha, they say.

When the rain starts again, there is

no window to close. From the street, talk

of someone who has

never left.

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Final Summons

When you    come for me

pause at   the common threshold

but don’t wait

as I don’t. Give me

at least    that confidence

and watch me race far



There will be others crying

in my place

your eyes will be dry

and in that desert

you will always drown.


I won’t    say goodbye.

I didn’t know you long.

It may be you weren’t

worth the acquaintance

or that    we each

came here     too soon

when the only thing

we cannot cheat

is time.

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Poem, written 2001 (Indian Himalaya), published in CHA: An Asian Literary Journal #27, April 11, 2015: http://www.asiancha.com/content/view/2015/489/)

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