Gary Langford

Gary Langford was born in New Zealand, though much of his writing has been published and performed in Australia. As well as 24 books, including 9 novels, such as Newlands, Penguin, 3 collections of stories, the most recent being Lunch at the Storyteller's Restaurant (, Hazard, 2002 and 8 books of poetry, he has also written stage plays, five musicals and scripts for the media. He founded and ran a Masters degree in Creative Writing at a Sydney uni until deciding to return to what he calls 'pure' writing. His next book of poetry will be Rainwoman and other poems.


Snake of Joy

This is when we know our past well,
no matter how large the snakes of memory,
how harsh and torpid is their tone.

Ever thought why a third of our life is sleeping?
Ask yourself what our largest muscle is?
Did you know it's the closest snake muscle?

We research and measure electric waves,
of the sleeping, of the dreaming,
where cheerful tongues draw us in.

We are within the sleepy wind,
recovery in the manuscript,
from time and beefy bungles.

No more taken by committees of the forlorn,
starry night, singing purely,
mixing tongues in maudlin joy.


When we are born, we page for milk,
Growing the more we are able to suck in.
Some believe it's still there,
lofty clothes, refusing to pay debts.
We listen for the sound of paging,
convinced little needs to be done,
how, sooner or later, the call will be ours.
We walk beyond others,
smiling indulgently at those in the queue,
advice given, a slight charge of course.
If this doesn't happen we go to meetings,
pages of childhood scarred, sometimes even blank.
No one listened to the milky calls,
and never will, depressingly so,
accepting requirements of the clinic we visit,
prepared to pay others to listen.
Drugged, we realize they seldom do,
Each cut of wind, bitterly indifferent.
Towards the end our pages are empty,
words imported, blankness still at the core.
Small wonder we sob,
a few of us asking for the final page,
calling out loudly for bitter milk,
drunk whole in one final suck.

Determined Thought

It's that inner silence,
the one we find the hardest to live with.

It's another year's arrival.
Dawn bursts through the door.

The bed I am in is not mine,
or anyone else's. You hang
your head and smile a lot.

This is the first day of someone's life.

I shall try to be likewise,
determined to do one thing I like
in the memory of being happy.


The time of skinflint thoughts
uncertain if life is ours
what we will do at each call
knowing the judge on the bench also withers
the bodies scars grow mutinously

we become one-eyed cats
wishing we were on the prowl
praying that this will be so
claws unsheathed to strike

each day has a chord
condemned when the sentinels applaud
fog on the windowsill

white-gowned examiners
shake your fist in the moons cold

walk from the waiting room bold

Getting the Mail

There was a time in writing
when much depended on the mail,
willing each streak across letters
to be what you wanted:
acceptance, contracts.
Now you tap words into the wind.

What you do not want arrives.
Someone you will never meet
is writing the script.
The role is not yours,
flat lines,
no matter how successful you are.

You get a coffee and sit down.
Birds fly beyond the screen.
Your CD is a dream.

Further away is a chain saw.
You are morbid.
How close is it coming?
Does it have your name on the edge?
You are certain, yes, certain,
Switching off the power.

The cut is still there.

The Last River

I hear the song,
each long saddening chord,
watching the drying of the dew.
Not a single healthy leaf is left.

The dew knows justice never comes,
no matter how much the rain falls.

The rubbish on the road runs long,
ending in the river.
It has your name on it.
You are dew.

You will outlast all of us,
beyond the icy winds of emptiness.


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