Paul Dawson is currently completing a PhD in the English at the University of Melbourne. His poetry, fiction and essays have appeared in a range of journals and newspapers, including The Sydney Morning Herald, Imago: New Writing, Meanjin and Southerly.


slaughterhouse holocaust / porterhouse
wholesale cost / daughterspouse / laughterlost
slaughter cost / hollow house
bloodhouse / hothouse / farmhouse / workhouse
gashouse / steakhouse
our house / our place
of residence / of living / a life
flashed in the glint of
a blade / like lambs

to the slaughter
the train departs

the camps / the butchers
frozen corpses / dangling from hooks
rump chuck gravy blade
pound of flesh / medium rare
mad souls / roaming Europe

final solution?


The colour of beer
they croon in their schooners,
all sweat and yeasty breath.
They don't know the etymology,
they haven't tasted
the amber fluid:
a Latin scent, the blood of trees,
oil on the ocean
shot from Sydney
like hammer up an arm,
like a blast of opium
up the Brisbane river vein –
you sugared me with your smile,
the smell of bourbon and cigarettes
a perfume on your lips
and your cool tongue wading
through my mouth.
I got drunk with you
I got drunk on you
I held the hot skin of your feet
like embers in my palm
I watched your jeans rumple
to the floor.

You smuggled your body
into my sheets, you stripped your heart
and laid it on my pillow; it thumped in my ear
as we sexed our raw flesh
and you salved me,
like a lozenge
in a smoked-out throat.

We left Wednesday out in the sun
and hoarded the shadows,
lounging like invalids,
while my sperm died inside you.

Amber. A fossil in my memory.
You left a tangle of hair in my brush,
you left a red pen and a
shred of wounded paper.
You left your name
and a phone number
that isn't yours.

Yabbering Sextons

You rise with birdsong whittling
Dawn from the sky
And watch bricks turn blue
As night loses its dye
Last night you saw the moon
Caught thrashing in a streetlamp
And yesterday the dead sunbaked
While wind tore the suburbs
From a gardener's radio and spilled
Billy Joel all over the gravestones.
You scribble your dewy pre-coffee thoughts,
You smoke your rejection slips and dream
About winning the Vogels,
You buy your handbooks and sell your
Atwood, and you wonder
Are you a writer?

You go to class and hail the pyschologised
Muse; not nine but one
One for every writer seeking their voice.
You tell your story, everyone has a story,
You're told, but who said anyone
Wants to read it?

So you workshop, you read like a writer,
You read from the inside, you read
Hemingway and Carver
You talk voice, plot, dialogue, character
Stream of consciousness, point of view, structure
You do exercises in form, you do automatic writing
You listen to Lou Reed, you trace the shape of an egg
With your fingers as pens, you write your meandering
Slice of life stories, you go to parties to observe,
You eavesdrop in trains, you keep a journal, you stockpile
Newspaper clippings, you write your free verse your
Lines of prose arranged in visual patterns
With line breaks for punctuation
You show don't tell, dramatic not epic
Is she angry or is she gripping
The tablecloth with whitened knuckles,
You hunt adjectives and kill them,
You Twain, you Hemingway, you Carver
You Porter, you objective, you spare, you write
The harsh, white, strobe captured the pale, white skin of
Her soft round, face, in it's stark and stuttering, flash –

The girl next to you wonders
If you need the second white
Someone suggests it could be a metaphor
For the mimicry of alterity
In the condition of postcoloniality,
The dope fiend says its cool
Because it's like she has captured the strobe
The teacher wonders why no-one knows
How to use a fucking comma,
It's not a breathing apparatus for readers,
And do you have any idea when it's its or it's?
The class says ooh I like this line about the moon and
You treasure that little nugget, the teacher
Gives it a tick, and you get credit for your
Group exercise in vanity publishing

And you go to writers festivals and you think
Do we really want to hear that young writer talk about the
Generational rhythms of innercity culturescapes
And those fat Australia Council wine-drinkers
From the Blue Mountains telling us that literature
Is art not politics
And jaunty panel sessions on Sex and Motherhood
By women whose greatest achievement was giving birth
Or Time and Memory by people who write their memoirs
at thirty
And questions from the floor like
I was very impressed by how you managed
To get inside the mind of a foetus. Pause.
I'm wondering how you did that?

And you wait in line for your muffins and your nori rolls
Behind housewives with silk scarves and powder
In their facial crevices, scrabbling
After their luscious books and their signings
And their mid-afternoon wine
And you follow the hordes of would-bes with stories
Stuck inside them like they're constipated
Who send poems to Australian Short Stories
And nature ditties to the Itzy-bitzy
Wing-Ding literary competitions for
Ten bucks and the chance of a certificate
And look for laxatives at sessions with advice
On how to clog up the slush piles,
Jotting gems in their notebooks like
Give the publisher a call after three weeks
Just to check your manuscript got there
(what, in case you got the wrong address?)

And you stare at Mandy Sayer
Walking around the Malthouse
As if she's some strange god
Even though she was just another
Woman with long legs
Before you overheard a lady
Creaking that's Mandy Sayer
I wonder where she gets her IDEAS,
But now Omigawd she's a writer
But she doesn't look so different she's got coffee
Drooling in her saucer and she coughed a
Golly you can write too, you know, you can you can you can
You leer at the agents with your sweaty stories under arm
And you wonder how many Creative Writing, student anthology
Minor literature, underworld fringe writers are actually any
Good, why didn't that guy in your fiction class make it
All the teachers said he was good and they were published
Authors. Are you a writer?

Put it all on the internet, go on, everyone,
Fuck the multi-nationals and their one-hit wonder kids
And the ganglanders and their boomer conspiracy,
Post all your work on the greatest democratising
Medium of ephemeral pulp in history and
See if anyone cares, see if it survives
See if it makes a difference, do you want to
Make a difference, or do you just want to see your
Photo on a back cover, your little nugget in typeset,
Yourself chatting with Delia Falconer, or do you

what? Stop asking if you can write and ask
Why you write. George? Joan? Why?
Ooh but can you call yourself a writer?
Are you a writer because you write,
Only when you write, when people ask
What do you do, meaning what wage labour
Do you exchange for capital?
Are you a writer?

Maybe when your poems start to float around
With the rest of the turn-of-the-century poetic detritus,
Glanced over by an academic who buys the little magazines
You had never heard of until you saw the list
Of journals which the Writers Centre
(where you really should volunteer for gardening
in case it helps you get published)
Said accepts poetry and none of which anyone
In your class reads or subscribes to
Although they send a bundle of poems
Four times a year

Maybe when your book gets published and it changes your life
And the spine peeks out from the Australian fiction shelf
(hiding the matt cover with the arty naked chick)
Before it gets pulped after three weeks and
You get negative royalty payments
And maybe you got a review but they said
You needed an editor not a designer

Dear ed. I would like to submit this piece, submit
to your flightly authority, for your consideration,
this desideratum, show some consideration
can you please publish my poem
I've enclosed an SSAE you
Self-sucking Arsehole Editor
so you can return my crumpled manuscript
after you've Rejected me

When do you know that you're not going to make it?
How many years, how many rejections,
How many blood tests, how many dole queues,
How many courses, how many envelopes
And stamps, how much solemn delusion?
How long can you keep on being
One of those undeterred, unpublished
But unbowed writers
Who just won't admit they're fucking talentless?

Are you a nightingale in the dark?
Are you Blake, writing your wild visions
Without fear or fame
Are you Flaubert carving word by word
Convinced your Emma won't be read
Are you Dickinson in your attic,
Ready to flower from the grave?

Are you a mute inglorious Milton
Of the publishing world
Or just another yabbering Sexton
In need of a shrink?
Are you a writer? Are you are you
Are you

Thanks for the Poems, Pauline Hanson

1996, Brisbane
a pall of censorship has been lifted
we're all a little more free and easy to speak our minds
relaxed and comfortable
the neo-mcCarthyists will be witch-hunted
that's a core promise

Each day, in the stink of an all year summer,
Amidst the riot of mango and jacaranda,
Sweating rain and heat that trembles
I read the papers: Manning Clark the communist /
Helen Garner the anti-feminist / Grunge-lit
Ex-generationalist / immigration and political correctness /
Black armband history / the Aboriginal industry /
And there, under the crotchety throb of the overhead fan,
Her face rustles, Pauline Hanson
Just a little bit of the devil

Why am I fascinated by every page, every story
Every word? Why do I stare, shaking my head,
At her face, Pauline Hanson, the red-haired ignoramus,
Just a little bit of the devil?

1997, Sydney
Hurstville, halfway to Sutherland, it's a city now,
You know? Only twenty-minutes south
Of the city / behind Westfields
My feet on automatic pilot, twenty years of walking
Behind Westfields, I am stopped
By an old woman
'Excuse me, do you speak English?'
I stare, gorilla-shouldered, quasimodoed
And with my 3 unit English / Communications honours degree /
Masters in Creative Writing / father is Australian / been here
My whole life / accent of a digger voice / I can muster only
A question: 'What?'
'Never mind,' she turns, raising her voice,
'I was going to ask for some change for the train
But I'll ask an AUSTRALIAN'.
My girlfriend, blue-eyed, fair-haired, goes ballistic
I watch them fight / behind Westfields
Twenty years of my life / my whole life
Is no longer mine
I'm not angry, I'm hurt
I was wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses
How did she know?

Central / Redfern / Sydenham/ Tempe / Rockdale / Kogarah
From the top floor of the carriage we watch
two skinheads, rank with beer, suspenders
Dangling from jeans, enter
The vestibule / one sits next to the Korean youth
pressed in the corner / the other sits opposite
a friendly chat ensues:
'Why you reading that book? / Why don't you read it in English? /
What does it say? / What's that book? / Where you from /
Here, shake my hand / Come on / Don't be rude /
You call that a handshake / mate, if we were in a pub /
And you shook my hand like that / I'd take you out the back
And beat the shit outta ya / shake my fuckin' HAND
Pumping adrenalin through his hand, pumping blood in my heart
'Leave him alone,' says my girlfriend
He turns, we have moved from the top floor to the vestibule,
What are we, some sort of fucking guardian angels?
He sees her, blue-eyed, fair-haired / he sees me
Black-haired, scowling, trying to fill out
my oversized leather jacket
He makes some kind of connection in his buzzing
Head, draws up to his full runtish height, smirk/snarls
With knowing contempt, with that oh my god / what have we here
– if only he knew, she was a Jew –

He stares, like Hando in Romper Stomper
'I'm just having a friendly chat / trying to shake his hand'
'He doesn't want to / you're harassing him'
'He's just having a conversation' says Hando's friend
There's a bristle in the vestibule
Sydenham / Tempe / Rockdale
Two stops to Hurstville
'Come on mate,' says Hando's friend, 'it's not worth it'
It stirs him up
'I'm an AUSTRALIAN. I won't be told what to do
This is not high school taunting of difference
Four-eyed / fat / ugly / nerdy / pimply / chingchong / wog
This is relaxed and comfortable
Kogarah / the Korean has disembarked
I dream of being strong, not for politics, or tolerance,
Or freedom, or multiculturalism
For masculine pride, for testosterone / I'm ready
To cut my fingers on his teeth, to feel his nose crunch
Under my knuckles, his head splinter
Against the window / I'm ready
To get a knife stuck in my gut
For MY COUNTRY, not his
Hurstville / we disembark / my feet on automatic pilot
Twenty years of stepping onto the platform,
Of going home

1998, Melbourne
Richmond Town Hall / anti-racist rally / bring your placards
Bring your hate
Black texta on newsagent cardboard
The crowd laughs, the crowd chants, the crowd screams
The crowd hates / Pauline Hanson / is nowhere to be seen
Old men, old women, before our time, before we were born,
In their day, milk was cheaper, and nothing was a lot of money
Grandparents coming to see the red-head with the pink and the legs
Just a little bit of the devil
Their eyes jostling like egg-yolks behind plate-glass spectacles
Frail bodies shuddering, withered skin bruising
As the crowd shoves, pushes, insults, refuses
Entry / young male protesters saying cool
as they see the crowd grapple with a thick-necked redneck
FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY / some agree, some say
Fuck off / and Pauline Hanson is nowhere to be seen
Then the lighthorsemen, the cossacks, the men from Snowy River,
The Victorian Mounted Police, round the corner
At the gallop, sparking flint from the concrete
We plunge into ourselves, I see a man
Tumble beneath hooves,
Skull slapping the pavement.

1999, Sydney
Do you take this Australian-Hungarian Jew
To be your lawful wedded wife? / I do
We are mongrels / times two

Sydney 2000
Australia has come of age.
Yeah right.

Thanks for the poems, Pauline Hanson.

Lunatic Brothel

If you're filthy rich and you're
Looking for a good time looking
For a fuck to soothe your itchy veins
But you're sick of street whores
And strip joints, escort services,
Mail-order brides and computer
Dating agencies and you're bored
With cruising public toilets or pretending
To be Uncle Jack outside Blue Light discos
And you want to experience
Virtual Insanity,
There's a rotting galleon
A reeking black hulk
That caters for your kind –

It's a floating whorehouse
And it doesn't have any of the
Tarted-up sluts you're used to,
It's full of all the screaming
Rejects that nobody wants
And nobody wants to see
Because they make everyone sick just
Looking at them makes people's guts
Crawl up their throat and dangle like
Oozing fungus from their tongue
So all the screaming rejects that
Nobody wants and nobody
Wants to see were put on a boat
And you hear stories sometimes
Stories about this huge asylum that
Never docks, its hull rattling with
The bay and howl of festering idiots
And now everyone wants to see
Them but only you, only if you're filthy and
Rich can you get on board all aboard
Chaaron will row you out to
The Narrenschiff, Ship of Fools,
Foucault's Renaissance Hell,
The Lunatic Brothel –

Are you ready
Now you'd better be
Ready because
You might not come back,
You might hate it, you might be
Disgusted –

But then again,
You might LOVE IT


For an outrageous price
Chaaron the Boatman,
So named for that
Classical touch,
Will ferry you to the
Lunatic Brothel –

Pay him,
That ancient pariah
Hollow mouth, no teeth
No tongue, black eyes
In a black hood chained
To the barge
Purple twisted hands
Roped with swollen tendons
Grip the bargepole
You slither through
Water red and
Slimy like an oil
Slick blisters popping
On the surface
By a sun gone to canker

Wavering in a squint
The Flying Dutchman
Squats fat and sweaty
On the water
While slow as all Hell
The Ferryman
Rows you in

Slow as all Hell
Night crawls out
Like a weed
The moon leers
Mildewed over
Dribbling its trail
Of snail sheen spit
On dead obsidian water
Your barge rides
The goblin strip
Bumping against
The creaking hull
And you're there.


Welcome to the Ark.
Charnel House.
Carnal House.
Hotel flesh.
Brothel of the Dead.
Gives good head. Frothing red.
Stewed up broth. Eat the Dead.
Curdled cheese. Rotting bread.
In your head. In your bed.
Stinking arse or cunt
You can fuck the
Broken junkie dolls
Of the Brothel of the Dead.

It's a filthy rich fee
To get on board
But when you're on board
You'll see why when you
Wander the oozing decks and
You see the drooling idiot lashed
To the foremast naked eyeballs
Dangling on his cheek from
Strings of dead tissue screaming
When the wardens suck his dick
Or shove their batons up his arse
They carry bull horns on their hips
And call themselves matadors
They chase the deformed kid with the
Elongated face around the quarterdeck
Until he pisses his pants and scrabbles up
The mizzenmast shrieking and dances
A mad jiggle on the crow's nest like
A puppet on broken strings
Then, down below
You'll salivate and leer
At the cooped up hordes
Stripped naked, blasted by hoses,
Ready to be fucked

Genetic engineering mishaps, crippled centaurs wheezing dehydrated
mermaids, plastic surgery failures, melted faces, skin-grafted surgical
guinea pigs pharmaceutical experiment volunteers kids on crack and heroin,
whacked-up, doped-out, jittering, shitting in their hands, tearing the
wings off frozen turkeys, modern day lepers AIDS and cancer festering
sores, lesions, blisters, puss and pissing blood coughing bile split
peeling skin, homeless orphans, shambling bums, degenerates, the
unemployed, the insane, temporarily insane, criminally insane, certifiable,
emotionally disturbed, mentally unhinged, psychologically maladjusted,
handicapped, disabled, demented, deformed, comatose, braindead,
lobotomized, amputated, castrated, mutated, retards, freaks, lunatics,
maniacs. Children Of God.

But the real treat, the filthy rich
Delicacy is down in the bowels
Where the surgeons work
They wear red butcher's aprons
And call themselves toreadors
They give their wives facelifts
So they can fuck their eyesockets
They give their wives lobotomies
So they can fuck their brains out
They give their wives stomach tucks
So they can peel their skin back and
Fuck their entrails through their ribcage
In the surgeons' den with
Huge glass jars lined up
On dripping shelves like
Lolly shop sweets you can suck,
Gall bladder candy, liver,
Punctured heart, dead foetus

Lie on the slippery operating table
Look up at the dying lightbulb
Swaying like a fevered pendulum
Trainee medical students lurch
From the shadows and
Grease you with slathers of blood
Full body massage
With a bludgeon
From the burnt out whores
The surgeons cluster in, giggling,
Carve new orifices with
Their scalpels graft
Bits of pulsing flesh to your
Erogenous zones cut out
The pieces you don't need
Until you're the abortion your
Mother always wanted

It's heaven, hard-core fantasy,
Cerebally unbound interactive sex,
Virtual insanity,

Even the crew are mad.
They wear togas and call themselves emperors,
And if you don't applaud their singing
They tie you in a burning sack
Toss you overboard
And laugh hysterically
While you drown.


The Drunken Boat lists
Under a carousel vulture,
The sun is rancid
And hot as all hell.
Chaaron dozes.