Five Poems ~ David Stavanger

that dream you keep havingDavid-Stavanger

shower drips but there’s no water.
in the bath’s deep end, faces floating on your face.
eyes hung like light bulbs, front door cleaved open.
blinking neon sign on the roof:
the boneless ones suck at your toes
harvesting hair from armpits and sinks.
the wolf within the wall devours its own mouth.
and that girl from down the road
who took too many lovers
finally dies in your bed.
her funeral the same as the last except for the flowers.
waking facedown to the colour red.

but it is when the teeth start
eating other teeth by your side
then the voice starts, raspy and underneath
We don’t care if you’re vegetarian. The House will have its meat.

First published in The Special (UQP)


nobody knows who invented straws
they keep our mouths at bay
stop the lip of glass meeting lips
maintain everything at a distance
fearing the intimacy of liquid
the throb of ice on tongue
feeling better if something is between:
clothes, surnames, bodies of water

one day we will undo ourselves
drink straight from the wrong cup

First published in The Special (UQP)

nobody whistles in the dark

lights out and try to remember where you came from. visiting hours are between five and ten. park out front, near the row of palms designed to stop the mobile tower across the road from stealing thoughts. you enter. the nurses at the front desk are nice except for the tight blonde one – she’s a Nazi, lips grip her face but she never smiles, doesn’t let anyone out for a quick smoke or to chase the blue cars. the smell tells you that people have shit themselves here as if they have something to fear. underneath that smell another – rusted metal, maybe aluminum, the steel plate screwed into somebody’s skull. in the muffle of the courtyard there is a flat soccer ball, a strip of grass and a painted tree. sometimes sky. the first to approach is a Chinese man with a back pack. he crouches next to you, reaches in producing religious pamphlets and yellow finger paintings. I like people you don’t have to fight to get close to he whispers in your ear. he has been mistaken for a death ceiling, he’s way too gone to stay here long. the guy across the way is counting his cigarettes then his fingers and then his cigarettes. the mathematics of hope. Katie is in the corner. she crawls under the table when everyone’s looking. her hair is matted and somewhere in there is what has been taken. the nurses regard all family with suspicion, everyone is paranoid including you. a storm is predicted for tomorrow and the bed wetters will all get up first. the loss of agency, the seroquel mandala, the thoughts that walk. her brother is here to guide you. you’ve met a lot of people but never for the first time in the shower. This is where I get naked he says pointing at the shower head. in his room he strips, shows you the map of his strong back and the anchor tattooed on his neck. he tells you that you get it and you do, it could be you dancing on the jetty with your eyes out. there are many rooms here but few exits, bulbs dim in the bedrooms before dark. The gentle ones are harder to hide, they will be moved on, they never last long. he is wiser than your tarot cards and every expert on television. moving down the hall, the names change and texta marks run, on every door a new child. there are no corners here nor edges. breakfast is served at seven, constipation is more than a condition, everything is stuck. the faster you move round here the faster they come. in the ward no new words are welcomed, you can talk like a salad but you can’t ask for water. even if you sing Patsy Cline, no-one will listen. doctors pass themselves off as cleaners, pills in the lining of pants, sex in a cupboard. another uniform, another vision. the other day the intern psych with the rimmed glasses said Tell them what they want to hear but they all have textbooks for ears. as you get up to go her brother says Only dogs get this frequency, they have the right range. he is getting ready to go too but they don’t green light you unless you can’t walk in your sleep. heading back out to the car park he follows, six foot two, asks passersby if they have seen the low flying bats in formation or heard the silent satellite. you’re not sure which is closer to heaven, no God has authority in this dominion. you get into the car and turn on the ignition – as he disappears in the rear-view mirror, he is not smaller than he appears.

First published in The Special (UQP)

On Hold (and on holding on)

To speak to Unit 1, please press one.
To speak to Unit 2, please press two.
To speak to Unit 3, please press three.

We speak the same language.
Prescriptions get cheaper the more drugs you’re on.
The white walls wail and the black eye stares.

We speak the same language.
You’ve changed your pants again, clever.
The beetles scurry up and the tree leans down.

We speak the same language.
I want you to hold this for awhile.
I ate too much of what they said.
The walk on is longer than expected.

We speak the same language.
Are you at risk to others?
What does your brother do in the park?
Was your mother ever in the company of leaving?

We speak the same language.
Cries for help fall on a trained ear.
Each day drags itself to the door to sleep.
Opening up is the first act of coercion.

We speak the same language.
Moonlight can be traced back to the urge to leer.
Convalescence is the best man, late again man.
Everyone stands up when the room enters you.

We speak the same language.
Translate this – head in the wild honey’s nest.
Write this down – dry mouth deserted.
Watch out – they’ll take a picture real quick
when they see what you’ve done to you.

David Shrigley Laughing Desk

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© David Stavanger

David Stavanger is an award winning poet, writer, and cultural producer. In 2013 he won the Arts Queensland Thomas Shapcott Poetry Award, resulting in the release of The Special (UQP), his first full-length collection of poetry, and at the 2014 Queensland Literary Awards he was awarded a Queensland Writing Fellowship to develop his next two collections. David is the Co-Director of the Queensland Poetry Festival with his partner Annie Te Whiu. He is also sometimes known as pioneering Green Room-nominated ‘spoken weird’ artist Ghostboy, performing solo, with multi-instrumentalist Richard Grantham, and  perviously with the band Golden Virtues at festivals across Australia. Ghostboy established the thriving Queensland poetry slam scene via his program work with the State Library of Queensland and Woodford Folk Festival.  and