GLORIA

Gloria’s collection of men
Began with a builder called Ben,
A twenty year old with manner quite bold;
But his nasty habits with ferrets and rabbits
Left Gloria’s libido quite cold.
After Ben came a hairy Greek waiter
Determined to woo her and mate her.
Full of Ouzo and crazed with lust
He cornered Gloria one day at dusk,
And creeping quietly up behind her
Goosed her with his pepper grinder.
Gloria went through men at a furious rate
There was a chef, a clerk and a Bosun’s Mate,
A Polish librarian, an octogenarian
And bankers galore, who were often Aryan.
What left these men bemused and in fits
Was the glorious sight of Gloria’s tits.
Her bra was a pair of baseball mitts
And men with cameras liked to take pix
Of Gloria wearing just a pair of pink knicks.
Now expert on male organs large and small
Girls listened aghast as Gloria told all.
This subject, she said, is very complex
And of intense interest to all of our sex.
Who can tell just what a girl may discover
In a pair of pink boxers or under a cover.
There’s no clue at all from an owner’s size
To the proportions of what he keeps in his flies.
It might be so small as to fit on a Hobbit
Or nothing at all if the man’s name is Bobbit.
Some take a Republican swing to the right,
Others, exposed, just shrink out of sight.
Some, quite boldly, stand to attention,
Others are just too small to mention.
Bald ones are cute, but I’m not a great fan,
A girl likes to un-wrap a gift from a man.
Some males require extreme titillation
In order to remain upright and stay on station;
One miserable member remained in repose
Until I emerged in a pair of black hose.
But best of them all is one made of plastic,
On maximum volts the sensation’s fantastic.
This member will never shrink, flop or bend
And there’s no panting male attached to the end.

AN ORGY AT THE BORGIAS

There’s nothing like an orgy at the Borgias,
They’re decadent, stylish and gorgeous,
While the Vatican caterers to God’s senior priest
Never fail to provide a most memorable feast.
There’s bumble bee dip and mousse of mouse,
And lip of hare and tongue of grouse,
Rib Eye of Papal Bull au jus,
And budgerigar soup and cockatoo stew.
Lamb’s hearts stuffed with sturgeon’s eggs
And crumbed and battered terrapins’ legs.
Red wine from France and sunny Spain
Gushing from fountains like tropical rain.
The white wine’s one of Latium’s best;
It’s that Vatican favourite, ‘Est Est Est’.

A conga line of Cardinals is cutting a rug
While a bevy of doxies give their cassocks a tug.
Two Legates are posing in crutchless hose
Raising a cheer when they touch their toes.

The Pope’s daughter, Lucretia, is up to her tricks,
Doing handstands and dancing without any knicks
And looking quite absolutely divine
As she seasons with poison her husband’s white wine.

A game called Excommunication
Involves sodomy and casual fornication.
It’s performed in groups of threes and fours
On an intriguing stage of revolving doors.

BALI

Dirty, dusty, teeming Kuta
Overrun with motorskuta
Steamy, luscious, emerald Ubud
Paddies full of tasty ricepud.
For every type of coloured niknak
The place to go is Seminyak
With shops of see-thru, pink sarongs
Assorted, coloured, rubber thongs
And bargain clothes that don’t quite fit you
And some that look quite odd ex-situ.
The God of airplanes is great Garuda
(Shiva’s statues are much ruder).
It all began when Top God, Brahma
Infused all Bali with his Karma.
Now the offerings at every candi
Are made by VISA (which comes in handi).
Sukarnaputri Megawati,
Slightly owlish, somewat potti;
Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono,
Molto furbo, molto buono.
Monsoon rain falls pit-a-pat,
Don’t forget to pak a mak.
Hottest sun’s at 12 o’clock;
You’re dead by 5 without sunblock.
Every daytang, every nitetang,
Open up an ice-cold Bintang.
Niknak paddiwak
Yum yum, Big Mak Snak.
Nasi Goring, Mee Goring,
Boring, Boring,
Boring, Boring.
Order up a Krispi Duk;
Taste’s the same, Oh, what the fuk!
Kamar Ganti
Nylon Panti
Salamat Pagi
Onion Baji
Wam bam thanku Mam
None today, it’s Ramadam.

LEAVING

Leaving is intensely satisfying. That journey to a distant destination may well be the best part of a vacation; the taxi to the airport the happiest moment. Even leaving home to go to work to a job you hate carries with it possibilities for new outcomes, unobtainable if you call in sick and stay indoors. Always better to be the leaver than the left behind, the abandoner rather than the abandoned. Odysseus had a tough time, first fighting the Trojans and then encountering all manner of obstacles during his 10 year journey home. But at least he was experiencing novelty; poor Penelope spent those years just waiting and knitting.

There are many poems about leaving; here are four from the pen of four disparate poets. The first, by Constantine Cavafy, a Greek journalist and petty civil servant – a Byzantine Philip Larkin – writing in Alexandria in the latter part of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, his poems unpublished during his lifetime. The settings for his work are the warm, pagan sites of ancient Greece and Egypt, his characters mythological Gods, heroes of the Golden Age and perfumed Ottoman boys.

Here he deals with the very island in the Ionian Sea that was Odysseus’ destination, in this case perhaps a symbol for the hunger for life or ‘rare excitement’, without which we fail to live. To reach Ithaka, you have to leave Ithaka. Not everyone gets to leave Ithaka; not everyone wants to leave Ithaka; there are those that remain unimpressed by the sound of the outward bound.

As you set out for Ithaka
Hope the voyage is a long one,
Full of adventure, full of discovery,
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
Angry Poseidon – don’t be afraid of them:
You’ll never find things like that on your way
As long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
As long as a rare excitement
Stirs your spirit and you body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
Wild Poseidon – you wont encounter them
Unless you bring them along inside your soul,
Unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope the voyage is a long one,
May there be many a summer morning when,
With what pleasure, what joy,
You come into harbours seen for the first time,
May you stop at Phoenician trading stations
To buy fine things,
Mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
Sensual perfume of every kind –
As many sensual perfumes as you can;
And may you visit many Egyptian cities
To gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind
Arriving there is what you are destined for,
But do not hurry the journey at all
Better if it lasts for years,
So you are old by the time you reach the island,
Wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
Not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey,
Without her you would not have set out,
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka wont have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
You will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

This next poem, ‘Christmas Day at Sea’, is by Robert L Stevenson, written in that unique style that seems to appeal to both young and old. Like D H Lawrence he was physically delicate, sought the sun and died young. Like Lawrence it took many years before his qualities as novelist, travel writer and poet were recognized. Between 1888 and 1890 he sailed the South Pacific finally settling on Opolu in the Samoan group of islands where he renamed himself “Tusitala” (Storyteller). “I wish”, he wrote, “to die in my boots; no more Land of the Counterpane for me.” He got his wish in December 1894. He had already written his own epitaph (1), which the Samoans translated and apparently still sing in the islands. The son of a lighthouse architect, Stevenson understood the difficult shores of England. Here a young sailor leaves home for the first time, the difficulty with which the ship beats away from a lee shore reflecting the pain of separation from the only life he knew. But we know, instinctively, that his was the hard but right decision.

The sheets were frozen hard, and they cut the naked hand;
The decks were like a slide where a seaman scarce could stand;
The wind was a nor-wester, blowing squally off the sea;
And the cliffs and spouting breakers were the only things a-lee.

They heard the surf a-roaring before the break of day;
But ‘twas only with the peep of light we saw how ill we lay.
We tumbled every hand on deck instanter, with a shout,
And we gave her the maintops’l, and stood by to go about.

All day we tacked and tacked between the South Head and the North;
All day we hauled the frozen sheets and got no further forth;
All day as cold as charity, in bitter pain and dread,
For every life and nature we tacked from head to head.

We gave the South a wider berth, for there the tide race roared;
But every tack we made brought the North Head close aboard:
So we saw the cliffs and houses and the breakers running high,
And the coastguard in his garden, with his glass against his eye.

The frost was on the village roofs as white as ocean foam;
The good red fires were burning bright in every long shore home;
The windows sparkled clear, and the chimneys volleyed out;
And I vow we sniffed the victuals as the vessel went about.

The bells upon the church were rung with a mighty jovial cheer;
For it’s just that I should tell you (of all the days in the year)
This day of our adversity was blessed Christmas morn,
And the house above the coastguard’s was the house where I was born.

O well I saw the pleasant room, the pleasant faces there,
My mother’s silver spectacles, my father’s silver hair;
And well I saw the firelight, like a flight of homely elves,
Go dancing round the china plates that stand upon the shelves.

And well I knew the talk they had, the talk that was of me,
Of the shadow on the household and the son that went to sea;
And O the wicked fool I seemed, in every kind of way
To be hauling frozen ropes on blessed Christmas Day.

They lit the high sea-light and the dark began to fall
“All hands to loose the top-gallant sails’ I heard the Captain call.
‘By the Lord, she’ll never stand it’ our first mate, Jackson, cried,
’It’s the one thing or the other, Mister Jackson’, he replied.

She staggered to her bearings, but the sails were new and good,
And the ship smelt up to windward, just as though she understood.
As the winter’s day was ending, in the entry of the night,
We cleared the weary headland, and passed below the light.

And they heaved a mighty breath, every soul on board but me,
As they saw her nose again pointing handsome out to sea;
But all that I could think of, in the darkness and the cold,
Was just that I was leaving home and my folks were growing old.

Rudyard Kipling is no longer popular, condemned by the politically correct for his subject of an Empire too recent to be held in the same regard as the Roman, his name now more commonly associated with mince pies. Nevertheless, in ‘The Feet of the Young Men’, he writes compellingly of the ‘Red Gods’ that call us from tepee, hut, house and condo in a pilgrimage of discovery.

He must go – go – go away from here!
On the other side the world he’s overdue.
‘Send your road is clear before you when the old
Spring-fret comes o’er you
And the Red Gods call for you!

It’s a longish poem and, apart from the above quoted refrain, I submit one verse only as a taster for Kipling’s description of the lure of a then, largely untraveled world.

So for one the wet sail arching through the rainbow round the bow,
And for one the creak of snow-shoes on the crust;
And for one the lakeside lilies where the bull-moose waits the cow,
And for one the mule-train coughing in the dust.
Who hath smelt wood-smoke at twilight? Who
hath heard the birch-log burning?
Who is quick to read the noises of the night?
Let him follow with the others, for the Young
Men’s feet are turning
To the camps of proved desire and known delight!

Can a poet, who spent most of her short life in the solitude of her bedroom, communicating largely by post, immersed in a herbarium, explain the excitement of leaving, of the ‘first league out from land’? In her poem ‘Exultation is the Going,’ frail, morbid, agoraphobic Emily Dickinson captures, and I can only use her own words, the ‘divine intoxication’ of departure. I understand that the devout Emily is referring to the passage of the soul after death, but I will take it for the metaphor she uses.

EXULTATION is the going
Of an inland soul to sea,
Past the houses, past the headlands,
Into deep eternity!

Bred as we, among the mountains,
Can the sailor understand
The divine intoxication
Of the first league out from land?

***

‘Ithaka’ is from C. P. Cavafy, Collected Poems, translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard; Princeton University Press, 1975, 1992.

‘Christmas at Sea’ (as well as Requiem – Under the Wide & Starry Sky) are from ‘Poems by Robert Louis Stevenson’. Chatto & Windus; London, 1913.

‘The Feet of the Young Men’ is from ‘The Five Nations’ by Rudyard Kipling;
Methuen & Co. London, 1905

‘Exultation is the Going’ is from ‘The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson’; Little, Brown; Boston 1924

(1)             Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the hunter home from the hill
And the sailor home from the sea.

Too-O-AteAte

2088 is the Postcode of the Sydney suburb of Mosman

By the shores of Sydney Harbour
By the deep-sea-shining-water
Lies the land of Too-O-AteAte
Once the home to pine and gum,
Now to ersatz Tuscan town-house
And the box of glass and steel.
Gone the lean and dreaming Dharug
Dharawal and Kuringgai,
With their legends and traditions
Gone to lodges in the sky.
Now the Elders of the Council
Send their brownshirt Rangers ranging,
Seeking, seeking, tracking, stalking
Smokers, parkers, pedophiles,
In the land where Burger’s King.
Once the sound of wood birds calling
Now the urban hum of engines,
Now the growl of four wheel drives.
See them at the Crystal Car Wash
Where the bridge points east and west.
There, the wives with yellow tresses,
Warpaint damp on botoxed lips
i-phones clamped to dainty ears,
Moving Spandex covered hips
Seeking weight loss, seeking thinness
To celebrate the Christmas break.
Sun sets on federation semis,
Husbands home from desk and mall,
Hunter Valley Chardo’s tippled
As ABC presents the News.
In the hushed retirement villages
Lonely and abandoned Elders
Microwave remaindered off-cuts,
As they clutch TV remotes.
Should you ask me, whence the car-wash?
Whence the leg wax and the lattes,
Whence the soy milk double de-cafs,
Whence the muffins, gluten free.
I should shake my head in sorrow
At the endless meals of Thai,
At the worship of all things Tuscan
At the long departed Kuringgai.

 

SAMUEL PEPYS

Rose early and off to my office
After playing the fool with young Nell
And thinking a while in my study
Of mon plaisir I had had avec elle.

I do see my nature’s unconquered,
Music and women I cannot refuse
Esteeming these pleasures above all else,
‘Tho my business I most surely abuse.

The Duke of York hath got with child
My Lord Chancellor’s daughter Sally
Who claims there be, on oath of blood,
An agreement that they shall marry.

Whoever do get a wench with child
Then promise that they’ll be wed
Is as if a man should piss in his hat
And then clap it upon his head.

To church and there saw a wedding,
Young people in merry delight;
What pleasure we married people have
To see others decoyed in a similar plight.

So apt is my nature to evil
Once set upon pleasure again
That I’m down to Deptford by boat
For a bout with the wife of a friend.

Strange how a brave, bucksome woman,
Professing great pretence to adore
Her husband, her family, her religion,
May behave like a Drury Lane whore.

And so to my home and to dinner,
A most handsomely served meal
Of a dozen plump larks, all in a pie,
Some prawns and a shoulder of veal.

The claret has left me quite fuddled,
The brandy has gone straight to my head:
I played awhile with the breasts of our Nell
And being sated therewith, so to bed.

DEATH IS JUST AN (IRREGULAR) HEARTBEAT AWAY

Sonnet for an ageing hypochondriac

I’m concerned about my prostate and the colour of my pee,
It’s not that pale straw or light Sauterne I’m sure it’s meant to be.
My knees are giving trouble, my anatomy is grey
And my skin is hanging on me like a dank and dismal day.
I wake each night with trembling, in deadly earnest fear
At each new pain that stabs me from my toes up to my ear.
I know in my diseased heart just what these symptoms mean,
At the very least it’s dengue but it could be ruptured spleen.
And even my left ankle, with its sharp recurring pain
Is probably just agony referred from a tumour on the brain.
There’s a pimple on my shoulder, which I’m sure is melanoma,
And a clot that’s traveling quickly north to send me in a coma.
I’ve athlete’s foot and housemaid’s knee and a bum that’s hemorrhoidal.
The whole thing really gets me down, I feel quite suicoidal.

WHEN I THINK OF ENGLAND

When I think of France, I think of Marianne
With hair of ash and fines attaches,
An exotic dancer with a fan.  
I think of faux Renoirs and stale Gauloises,
The Croix de Guerre and Laissez Faire
And crepes suzettes and underwear

When I think of Italy, I think of Donatella
With hazel eyes and lean brown thighs
That made me cry “Che bella!”
I ponder too on olive oil and ochre soil,
Umbrella pines and trailing vines,
And searching for Etruscan shrines.

When I think of Germany, I think of Wilhelmina
Whose flaxon tresses and dirndl dresses
Encouraged misdemeanour.  
I think of marching troops, potato soups,
Mercedes cars and Munich bars,
And Berlin rallies for Nazi Czars

When I think of the USA, I think of Betty Grable
In bikini pink or coat of mink
And mules with bows of sable.
I think of stars and stripes and Marlboro Lites,
Cadillac cars and men on Mars
And Hollywood moguls with big cigars.

When I think of Australia, Kylie springs to mind
With bubble gum and stud in tongue
A tattooed rose on her behind.
I think of rubber thongs and billabongs,
Kangaroos and a harbour cruise
And next door’s Esky full of booze.

When I think of England, I think of pretty Heather
From county stock in floral frock
She smelt of soap and leather.
I think of bicycle clips and fish and chips,
Wimbledon tennis and chaps called Dennis
And rows upon rows of suburban semis.

Proper Food

I’m sick of “modern Aussie” and all that awful “fusion”,
A Tower of Babel on your plate – it’s absolute confusion!
The mad mix of flavours leaves my taste buds numb
And it’s always served by waiters with a pickle up their bum.

Roast goose with meatballs and red currant jelly
A Stilton with port wine that’s all ripe and smelly
Frogs legs in batter and baked beans on toast
These are the dishes that thrill me the most

I hate that Blumenthal(1) and his laboratory dishes;
If I had my way he’d be sleeping with the fishes.
He should have experimented on mice and rats and hogs
Instead of the general public who end up sick as dogs.

Foie gras with truffles and ham hock with mustard
Trifle with cherries and whipped cream and custard
A dozen big oysters all fresh from the coast
These are the dishes that thrill me the most

I’m over fish that’s “seared” and served with sprigs of parsley
And food that’s cooked in woks is nothing short of ghastly.
I’m very tired of Thai and their endless curry puffs
And those boring little bean shoots, I mean, enough’s enough!

Cheesecake and donuts and raspberry ripples
Choctops and cup cakes with little pink nipples
A slice of red beef from a standing rib roast
These are the dishes that thrill me the most  

(1) Heston Blumenthal, owner chef of The Fat Duck, a 3 Michelin star restaurant, second to El Bulli in “Restaurant” magazine’s list of the 10 best restaurants in the world. The $250 tasting menu features mustard ice cream and snail porridge. The restaurant was closed temporarily in March 2009 when diners fell ill.