Poems by David Prater


Sure I read about that Australian ‘interior’ bit, and ‘shearing,’
and about the experience and death of Gordon, the poet …
— Walt Whitman to Bernard O’Dowd (1892)

To think of Adam Lindsay Gordon
              on Brighton Beach lying
dead in the sand while the bombs
              went off in his brain — how dangerous!
To think of Bernard O’Dowd 
              sad minor key! excuse me!
visiting A.L.G.’s grave each year on
              his own birthday — how depressing!
To think of Brighton beach covered
              with chunks of A.L.G,
like pinkish algae on the shoreline
              & the sand no longer sand — how gruesome!
To think of the nuclear apocalypse
              movie On The Beach
which was shot on Brighton Beach
              (where Algae blew his head off — how paranoid!
To think of B.O’D’s solitary heart
              & how he liked to go on long walks …
where he probably thought about
              the melancholy of Algae — how sentimental!
To suppose the Algae was bright green —
              perhaps it even glowed faintly yellow;
maybe there was an outfall nearby; or
              maybe it was just Algae — how realistic!
To think that Algae may have played
              many parts in the drama of his own life:
gold digger, stock rider, policeman, MP,
              something else & then suicide — how fatalistic!
To think of Algae lying dead in a sandy
              grave & Bernard O’Dowd on the beach,
and then of Whitman who never met either of
              them in that cold war movie — how pointless!
excuse me Walt
                                               O’Dowd writes

              thinking of Ted has led me into it



Your poems are too long; I don’t read them
      (in fact I barely have the energy to scroll …
this intranetting format being so unsuited
      to any role, except that of lurker &/or troll.
Your life has gone on far too long; I can’t
      read between its lines, can’t bring myself
to think, in fact, of anything at all to bray.
      But as they say you’ve still got your health,
& just think of all the bits you won’t need to
      expend in the future. I’m too lazy; I didn’t
bother checking first before hammering
      away at the keys. But I don’t care & won’t
be staying long. In fact I’m already gone,
      on to my next blog. Too late,
                           dumb rhymer!



This is the phase you will need to get through
      very quickly now. It’s already too late to plead
ignorance, or a special case. You’ve strayed in-
      to the grey zone between care factors. On one
hand: zero. And on the other: none. Someone
      is about to tap you on the sholuder, asking for
something: papers, identity, drugs. It doesn’t
      matter what they want exactly, only how you
react. It must be in time. It must seem casual,
      beyond effortless. You must act as if you truly
could not care less. This is good. This is very,
      very good. As a reward, please find two single
bus tickets enclosed. The first one will get you
      to the station. The second has already expired.



Sunshine for Kim Dae-jung 
on the day you died i heard helicopters
& jet planes flying over seoul’s old head
the sun was shining hot & burning down
teheran-ro & the steel streets of gangnam
were full of young girls holding umbrellas
by the subway entrance a young man held
the hands of an older man who was writing
something on a small pad, both looking sad
about something though I knew it wasn’t
you; & as I walked down the stairs into the
subway station I watched girls coming up
holding handbags over their behinds to
prevent the up-skirt glances & cameras
i'd recently read were on the increase …
i knew that you had just died & so how
could anybody here have that knowledge
but it made me sad in any case to think
about your long & amazing life & the life
of gwangju people that is so different from
that of the girl walking through gangnam
wearing a face-mask not because of flu
but due to a recent visit to the face doctor
& it’s not her fault & I don’t know anything
about her life but i wonder what’s the point
of all this though i don’t expect an answer
from her let alone anyone here i must find my
own reasons for life & carrying on within me,
i have to stop thinking about sad things like
the photo of you and kim jong-il, hand in
hand at last, while ko un looked on; i have
to believe in some sphere of freedom where
girls can walk around wearing short skirts
& holding umbrellas to protect their bleached
faces from the harmful old sun’s gamma rays
& boys do not have to do their twenty six
months & old women don’t have to live in
basement apartments & crawl up the stairs
& no one tries to steal up-skirt glances at
anyone & tawdry old mats covered with red
chillis spread out to dry can be left in the
middle of the road; i have to believe in this
road & the reasons for walking alone at night
& so i write & think of you in the past tense
& know that within hours of your death your
wikipedia entry had been changed to reflect
the fact & then I knew you were really gone
& it was all beyond dispute, & your life was no
longer an article that doesn’t cite its sources
but rather a song free of kidnappers & enemies
& crocodiles crying aloe vera tears yes forget
that it doesn’t matter now, you’ll join mr roh
somewhere behind a waterfall & together you'll
wait for the rest of us to arrive (one by one like
days of summer filled with moving tears & hands
                        & sunshine

Seoul, 2009


“Algae” was first published in Southerly (2010).