John Tranter has published more than twenty collections of verse. His collection Urban Myths: 210 Poems: New and Selected (U of Queensland P, and Salt Publishing, Cambridge UK) won the Victorian state award for poetry in 2006, the New South Wales state award for poetry in 2007, the South Australian state award for poetry in 2008, and the 2008 South Australian Premier’s Prize for the best book overall (fiction, non-fiction, poetry and others for the years 2006 and 2007). His next book is Starlight: 150 Poems (UQP, 2010). He is the founding editor of the free Internet magazine Jacket (jacketmagazine.com), the founder of the APRIL project (april.edu.au) and he has a homepage at johntranter.com.
It will never be the models in the color supplements –
those begging letters of a greedy age –
their lips giblets of silicone, their corrugated ribs,
who can inspire me with a flicker of lust.
I leave to Leibovitz, Laureate of Disney Parks,
her gallery of vanities, her circus of bloated egos,
for among those lipstick celebrities I cannot see
a single flower worthy of a vase.
The real need of my heart, deeper than a gutter,
is you, Lady Thatcher, soul annealed by politics,
or Nancy Reagan, born in the land of lies;
or Kylie the Idol, creature of Jeff Koons –
Kylie, pinned and wriggling in a magazine,
grinning like an inflatable doll in ecstasy!
It was known that the senior teacher might come
to the high school formal, despite the unspoken
taboo; he had a name for their bravado
and their girlish innuendoes, for he knew
nothing can bring a child undone more quickly
that the crash into adulthood via the glands
and a bottle of sugared bourbon and fizz.
The ambrosia had an awful lot to do that night,
for the kids were faded in the precise moment
of bursting into bloom. A few more years
and that cute blonde will be a harassed mother,
wanting magic English, a civil hello from Mister Real
from the slums, an end to the slanging matches,
and a private income to be spent only on champagne.
The constellations are rising in perfect order.
If you want a future, make a wish now.
Don’t wring your hands and whimper;
bring the other near, and listen. He has
something to say to you. If you turn away,
more water flows under the bridge,
and it is your fault, stupid. That one
is a real handful, a Sherman Tank.
Despite his position, in the American lingo
he is lower than a pig in mud, and a minor criminal,
and a sordid creep as well. Choose one of the songs
that had hung around the fringes of the hit parade
from the Time of Methuselah: the Lithuanian dirge
they didn’t want to use in Oklahoma!
John Tranter photo by Susan Gordon-Brown