Mudlark Poster No. 82 (2009)

Five Poems by Jesse Shipway

going to the movies
memories of real-estate
random access memory
marxism | four stanzas
and some key words

Jesse Shipway earned his PhD in the School of English, Journalism and European Languages at the University of Tasmania. He has published essays, reviews and poems in a number of journals including Journal of Genocide Research, Australian Literary Studies, Architectural Review (Australia) and Island. He edits the literature site and lives with his family in Hobart, Tasmania.

going to the movies

In the back of the ute, 
cushioned on a foam mattress and the air 
beneath the khaki tarp 
				is filling up with damp breath. 

His dad is driving
and the rain is driving.

In another vein
he says, 

				“I’m thinking to myself,” 
whenever anyone asks him

about the strength of private words.

Which is what they are all doing now —
you know, pretending to be this or that —
an architect, a teacher.

And sometimes there are questions.

Who will ford the swollen stream
after the heroes have gone?		

How much popcorn does a family of four...
The flickering screen keeps vision for itself
and the dry river smells the coming flood.

Into that rush;
the tyres of the ute posit
a sympathetic motion which travels
up as well as down 
or across the traffic —

pushing rain into gutters.

The moving shadows of half-dark ghosts.

memories of real-estate

The sun tracks through slits in the picture elephant’s visor
in the hall of the house in the Euclidean hills.

The hills give up mute mouthfuls of dark 
and pale sun recasts the ivory grave. 

Unable to calibrate an adequate response 
to losing money that is not in his wallet,
he pulls on his puffer jacket
and goes to the garden. 

He says, “clinging clouds
underestimate pride; 
they travel above
and leave it behind.”

Whatever molecules remain
are damp candles
on his tongue.  

If the phone rings,
he will let it ring.
If he spoke,
it would speak —

yearning to scatter fallen leaves across
cold stems.

This is only an idea —
inoffensive, untenable and brief.
Like the oblong evening —

a different kind of slit,

a mouth that bats at the walls 
as if they were women,

a kindergarten jumble 
scribbled on the walls of the dragon’s cave.

random access memory

The top half is Atlas sky
and wet grass pleached into a tangled
weave around the feet of the neat, black sheep.

The sharp light is calm 
because it happened in a car.

Because it happened at a crossroads,
where a corpse hung in a crooked tree,

(we are always going to the x —
to its splayed, kissing limbs)

we gave ourselves time to figure it out.
It was afternoon and we were thirsty.

Moisture rolled up and down the grass —
budding at the tips,
wetting the nest of filament slush. 

Now more sheep crowded the way.

We lay beneath
the scrum of ewes
and swallowed greedy mouthfuls
of body-warm lanolin milk.

This was mythic memory —
spiraling away from texts,
lassoing recollections,
making everything false,

casting it all into that same sharp,
pitiless, Atlas-blue sky. 

When the sheep died 
my brother and I stayed Wednesdays at the flat with our father. 


One good thing about 
Marxism is it catches 
onto the nebulous 
anger of young 

people who don’t like 
what’s going on around 
them, and these 
people stay in 

school thinking they’re thinking 
their way out, and then, 
undergraduate years 

they develop a 
partial understanding of negative 
dialectics and they 
earn their degrees. 

They see the 
world a bit and, 
what do you 
know, they wind 

up with all these skills 
that the masters of 
commerce can take 
hold of. 

They come out knowing 
that nothing irrational happens 
in history — that 
some people wake 

up on the wrong side 
of global capitalism every 
day — that some 
people is not 

all people and, besides; 
in 1850, the human 
race was just 
this thin scattering. 

Some stay angry though and 
with their skills they 
build village schools 
or lobby from 

the left. The really 
super duper brainy ones 
realise that God 
has it all in 

hand. That’s cause they 
discover theodicy and 
no longer smart 
when textile mills leave South Carolina. 

four stanzas and some key words



god made air for birds to 
fly beneath
him in

smushed onto a twig 
damp from the drizzle
a call for papers            reads partially	 
perspectives on genocide


mama duck and papa duck
spread wings of conversation 
over the table like paper
            squabbling with the ground in wind

like feathers ruffled in current affairs

he wants to be a pelican
she has a new blender


below the house
down in the creek
wild ducks bark like dogs 

this distinction between culture and nature
is the moment 
when water turns to air
and weeds cavil with smooth stones

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