Philip Hammial








I went down where the bell was.

At a long table there were monks bent over bowls.

They were slurping soup.

Disgusting. When, I asked,

will you stop to ring?

And one, the eldest, wiping his mouth on the sleeve

of his cassock, replied: The sound that will carry

your mother home, how big must it be?

It was a good question, & one to which

I had no answer.

They offered soup, which I reluctantly accepted,

a bowl, apparently, without a bottom.

When you’ve finished, said the old monk, I’ll make

the sound that carries your mother home.



© Philip Hammial






The men were biting my arms.

The horse was blindfolded.

No one would extinguish the fire in the next room.

“It will burn forever & you with it,”

said the old woman, the mother of the men.

She took off her clothes, put them into a box

& gave it to me.

“Put them on,” she said, “& give me yours.”

I did as I was told, & became a mother of seven men

for eight hours.

When I told my sons to bite the old woman’s arms

they refused.

Then we exchanged clothes again.

This went on for seven months.

On the first day of the eighth month the horse was taken

to the burning room.

After we ate the horse the old woman told her sons

to bite my arms.



© Philip Hammial






Home to find the party in full swing. Complete

strangers. Ordinary looking people, but something’s

missing – no drinks, no food. Their nourishment

comes from elsewhere. “It’s nothing

to be concerned about,” she says as she leads me

into another room, my bedroom, where she shows me

the capsule that she keeps under her tongue. Could

it be cyanide? Bite at your peril. I’ve lost

my appetite. Which is just as well because the party’s

over, the last guest leaving with my children

in tow. I’d like to go too but don’t have a ticket,

turned away by the conductor, the locomotive hissing

in the moonlight as its huge wheels slowly, reluctantly

begin to turn, my garden

ground to a pulp. Their nourishment

comes from elsewhere. From

Constantinople possibly. “Your children

will like it there.” Waving

from a window (Victorian children

in an ornate frame) they promise to write.



© Philip Hammial






Ceausescu left laughing

Try charming harder

The platinum gag was my idea

At which point the hunting simply hums

A hymn in praise of human pelts

Try charming harder

Sing out what your price is

Sorry not to have heard your giggle, was otherwise engaged

If you have any Christians it’s time to listen to them closely

It was mine – that little fascist intuition

From literal mud he crawled to run with literal dogs in

The time it takes to tow a mother

Hooded emissaries bring out their tubas for a blow

At which point the hunting starts to complain

About those tidewater gadgets that weren’t reported in prayer

Meeting sheep with brutality – give it a try

While they twitch your guilt

Is pleasured, is more than you can bear

The aluminium earplugs were my idea

At which point the hunting simply spreads

The Cantonese until their dead are as supple as ours

Who still insist on budget sorrows

Even though they know as well as we do

That hence to whence isn’t really twice as much

The diamond-studded blindfold was my idea.



© Philip Hammial











Philip Hammial has had 29 collections of poetry published. His poems have appeared in 33 poetry anthologies (in seven countries) and in 104 journals in fourteen countries. He has represented Australia  at fourteen international poetry/writers’ festivals and was the Australian writer-in-residence at the Cité  International des Arts in Paris in 2009/10.



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