The Cortland Review


John Tranter
An interview and poetry. Guy Shahar talks with Australian poet John Tranter.

Bruce Canwell
Writers on Writing 3: Preserving our Future.

John Tranter

Interview | Poetry


continued from page 2

Poetry of John Tranter

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Roland Barthes at the Poets' Ball

You are painfully conscious of your discourse
reified into sudden vomit and the applause
fading down the coast past Wollongong
where D.H.Lawrence danced the mambo
with a naked miner's wife - these ambiguities
cross that fine inscripted line
between the band-leader's tuxedo smile
and the waves of sentimental music - 'behind us
towers a vast edifice' - now he's feeling fine
and the Chocolate Wheel routine begins:
one ticket, then another, and the room
collapses into damage like a Mothers' Club
howling their metaphysics in the yard.
He's fumbling for his notes, the amyl nitrite
flashing behind his eyes from right to left
then the movie ploughs off the tracks and you
crawl out of the wreckage with a multiple
fracture - your metaphors flailing at the glare -
and the audience diminishes, one by one,
drinking more as they disappear into history,
the gay bars on the edge of the city raving
goodbye. You know you're losing more than
an expense of rhetoric, your life is magnified
behind a dropping bottle as your vision tilts:
ashtray, glasses, a wet packet of cigarettes
slide off the table in slow motion and
politics are acutely personal to you now
as your brutal hangover graduates in the arms
of an older woman mumbling in her sleep:
'I'm the Guest of Honour, and I'm going home.'



The Germ

'There's a huge germ behind the glass -
break it, and a terrible plague
will decimate the galaxy!' As he spoke
the Commander grunted agreement. 'You mean
one in ten of us … will live?'
'No, die,' came the answer. 'Okay, take a break!'
The director curls up in a corner
and dozes off. He forgot his tablets, and dreams
again about the huge germ eating all his money.
The script girl goes out under the cold stars
for a coffee and a good cry. The glass wall
of the Control Room looks like a mirror,
to the film crew, under the lights; or
history, thinks the sleepy director, the history
we want but never get. 'You making enough money?'
'Sure, sure.' The lights go up, clack clack
clack. 'You mean you're in love with him?
With that bastard?' The script girl's crying again
and the shooting has to stop These tiny emotions rise
and fall, and many things are changed forever.
'Jim! I can't do it! The Voltage Gate … aargh!'
'Listen! You're an alien, aren't you? Well, try!'
And yet the history mirror presses against them, and
struggle as they may, the germ is inevitable.
'Nice try, boys! Wrap it up!' They pack up the gear.
                                        And far into deep space
in a drifting starship, the aliens turn off the video.
'Some movie, huh?' The crew break out a bottle
but the Commander goes to bed. He has the nightmare
again, about a germ, and a decimated galaxy.



2002 The Cortland Review