Poems by James Stuart


Brief squalls of blue, spliced between persistent rain.

Scene 4: a pair of black swans drift towards sunset,
slow tilt at a finite problem — soft-lighting perhaps?
But the rugby fan behind me unwraps a hotdog, wrapper
branded Hans Small Goods, & the Waikato Chiefs score again.
Near Bulli Pass, an isolated stag hoofs it
across the freeway’s shock of headlights, edging
away from Venison Weekend at the Austrian Club.
Each of us holds this sensation of acceleration,
approaching the drawn-out smudge which may yet be
mountain range blurred against a graphite sky.
Even in rewind, you look older in the makeup mirror
kept in your hip pocket for such doleful occasions.
With a flick of the wrist, you interlock its circles like a lens
though a quick survey of the foreground brings the distance,
like a taciturn stranger, too close for comfort. Ambling along
this alpine lake’s gravelly shores, petrified wood crumbles
at a touch, each piece strewn into place before the crowd
snaps the reverie with a gasp.
The train is a cue; we shuffle into platform gaps,
fingering this thought or that, licking our lips in anticipation.
If there is room here — enough for everyone — invite
the rugby fans, our collected friends, even the swans,
who barely register our shapes from so high above, as we move
into & out of focus, signposting this explicable mist.



Double Happiness

The Sydney Harbour Bridge cast in east-west
elevation hovers over wind-raked water.
This perspective accentuates its arch
like the handle of that vintage vinyl suitcase
you picked up for a fiver in Enmore.
By now you were halfway to the Hong Kong
Business Chamber’s New Year banquet,
though the cause for celebration remains, in the end,
a mystery. It might have been factory farming:
every beast imaginable stretched out in a swirling
constellation of plates; the shock of an ocean trout’s
cloudy eye, its flesh the taste of star dust.
Thus happiness expands at the percentile rate
of your income portfolio. You carry
the two halves to this secret, one
in each pant pocket, as the cast of characters
who populate your future prepare to bail you out
from even the blackest of indiscretions.  


After Wang Lü
I tip my hat to those Ming court artists,
each one noted for their meticulous paintings
of bright birds & propitious flowers:
precise black strokes, exact pigment for feather
& petal, bringing close the day. On the sidelines
of such style I screw up the latest draft & it floats
out the window where the sharp crags of Hua Shan &
Mount Druitt’s forlorn retail strip are framed.
Sunset’s corona burns up the bald horizon; migrating
Learjets & helicopters exchange vicious blows,
divvying up the oil. It’s a triage of sweetness,
sadly necessary in these times of short supply.
As in all landscapes there is a human figure
for scale. Whether it be me or you is not important,
nor that here the figure is in plain view,
free at last from the picture’s interminable mists:
you pack a reed basket with the paper folio
a third party has chosen to outlive us, & make
for the denuded hills; I push my shopping trolley
across the pot-holed bitumen towards the car.
Now is the time to deliver our best lines to the viewer
though this assumes we can be heard above the explosions
& the lumbering contraption which stomps out
from the gallery shadows; the slight scroll hung
carefully on the wall doesn’t stand a chance.


“Aperture” was first published in Overland #201, 2010 and “After Wang Lü” in HEAT #20