Gary Langford is the author of 28 books, 12 of which are fiction, 11 of which are poetry. There is also a CD of his poetry, Gary Langford reading his poems, His most recent collections are Cafe Sonnets, Cold Hub Press, 2010, Rainwoman & Snake, Steele Roberts, 2011, and The Family Album, Ginninderra Press, 2011, He is a writer in Melbourne, Australia and Christchurch, New Zealand.

Gary Langford is the author of 28 books, 12 of which are fiction, 11 of which are poetry. There is also a CD of his poetry, Gary Langford reading his poems, His most recent collections are Cafe Sonnets, Cold Hub Press, 2010, Rainwoman & Snake, Steele Roberts, 2011, and The Family Album, Ginninderra Press, 2011, He is a writer in Melbourne, Australia and Christchurch, New Zealand.

Ballad of the lonely minister

His father was a tourist minister, selling the country,

cheaper than an overnight flight to the new world.

He had a loose tie, a carefully sheened skin, lies within.

The boy’s idea of politics was spelt as, ‘you’re kidding.’

By high school he was a rebel, coveted in God’s hands.

He read the bible as carefully as a driver’s licence.

His father was used to going to church for votes.

Politicians are expected to turn up in morning pews.

Uncertainty caused the tourist minister to kneel down.

All he heard was his son’s chant like a chipped crown.

The boy became a minister in a stiff white collar.

Custom made clothes, a black gown, a civil hood.

The boy turned towards centuries of chanted words.

A short back and sides, trimmed belief; history’s grief.

All caused him to read the bible for chuckling relief.

At the end of training he was given a country post.

‘They’ll like you out there; old church, older ghosts.'

His forehead shined to become the voice of the dead.

‘The poison in your cooking was hidden with skill.

I was put out to dry in the cheap sun on Family Hill.’

He grew to become a small church on river flats.

There were times when faith went underwater.

His podium was on a tree. A root was the wall.

He felt at home in the tree, chants, a choir for a time.

He emailed his parents, signed, Minister of Trees.

His father was glad to be voted out of parliament.

Opposition would have made a meal of a tree.

Recitations grew of a god of water.

Earth and the body came together, well rivered

In veins on a water-loan, looming lake eyes.

Death is incautious. The minister’s congregation wept,

even if he read a witty epigram left by the deceased:

I told you it wasn’t the flu.

The river chuckled, wheezing on sand.

As he grew older, he was unable to.

When he looked in the mirror, a living minefield.

He wondered who stared back at him.

The greater the sentence, the greater the sentence.

He wondered if God had selected him in silence.

All in a tree language, more chuckling than pretence.

One day the sky wept. Blood opened on belief.

Out in the country funerals outstripped birth.

The minster’s belly was a barrel from beer.

Jesus was sober. What did he do with fear?

He kept that doubt to himself. The church was sliding

into the river without a fuss. Today’s way.

Fish were more reliable than a congregation,

in tune with the moon. The choir was birds.

God summoned faith in a memorable river flood.

The ballad of the lonely minister crooned in river mud.

Ballad of the lonely sexagenarian

He tries to build himself on the news front.

His spirit is carried in a bottle.

The song is simple: 'my soul is sold at the door.'

A forgetful family. 'We do what we have time for.'

Presents are dropped over. Sheets with a specials tag.

It is the same present he received the Christmas before.

He will return the sheets as his present next year.

They are in the fourth year back and forth.

One day they will be opened. Arms will fall out.

He chuckles, picturing whose arms they will be.

Tomorrow welcomes him in a psalm of drunken jokes.

'We are born toothless, innocent and sweet of breath.

We die toothless, grumpy and fading of breath.'

'Who’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?

'She’s the size of a whale, turning us pale.'

He wakes up with a throb, jokes missing.

He reports the stolen jokes to the police.

A constable writes he is a disturbed man.

Nightfall comes, still nothing funny in hand.

A drought calls in the outback. His head hums.

He calls his wife’s name in the season’s fade.

She was deaf, even when she was next to him.

They were in different rooms, regardless of the bed.

One day she went to the shops without returning.

Not once did she claim her share of anything.

She vanished as clean as washing clothes.

'Shopping,' he brightly told everyone for a year.

'It’s a long trip,' he was told, and stopping explaining.

Now he bites the pillow in the empty glass of night.

His family joyously nods at the police report.

‘Lost is all.’ ‘Mad as a hatter.’ ‘Not a bulb in sight.’

‘Bright kids often lose the electricity.’

Each feels better the worse he becomes.

He begins to leave work early to have a drink.

Plates and glasses are loaded high in the sink.

One morning he turns up mumbling and pissed.

He chooses to go than be sacked. He won’t be missed.

He attacks the house. He marries the phone.

There is a message of love. No-one is at home.

A young man smiles at him on Facebook.

'I am a love box. I am a vixen of experience.

I am yours in tomorrow’s rain.'

A large tongue emerges to wrap itself around him.

He withdraws from the sob of lies.

A ghostly voice drifts to him at night.

Is it his wife finally returning?

Her words ring true. 'You have broken down.

There is no glue.' He throws an empty bottle across the room.

The ballad of the lonely sexagenarian is in tune.

Will you love me….?

Will you love me? Will you hold me true?

Only if I am cast outside of you.

Love visits us, welcome mat out or not.

Are you sure you know what you are saying?

I have often been rude to door-to-door sales people.

I do, only the season has gone and I’m not sure it is you,

let alone if you are my everyday sunrise.

I cannot deny this is true. I cannot deny it is you.

I call you in. I mark you down.

I try to sing the ballad of a woman’s anatomy.

The audience applauds, and laughs.

I am unaware we even have one.

Romance is in the air. We will see each other true.

We will talk as if there is nobody else in the world.

We are that foolish, chuckling opposition away,

as close as you can get to being delightfully buggered.

We determine to run each other down. And we do.

Make me laugh, you say, go on, I dare you.

I’ve done it all before, aren’t you sick of it?

Do it again. Make the fog around us go.

Whenever I sing your face lights in golden merriment.

I am your knight in shining comedy.

You decide I am your umbrella for a year.

Eyes turn green, breath as charitable as it can be.

Our hands play under each other’s raincoat.

The fire of desire warms us.

We heat each other without disorder.

We touch the pulse to each other’s heartbeat,

measuring us up; holding the other down.

We delude ourselves on a starry starry night.

It is that fanciful. It is that memorable.

Behind us is the city’s turbulent voice.

We call each other ‘ours’ without being certain.

It is the unexpected, the clouds are growing.

Love breathes. We try to keep up, breathless.

Neither of us expected to slow up so quickly.

Fault becomes as comfortable as we call on it to be.

Aah, has a new meaning. Ecstasy returns to being a drug.

We admit our lies are larger than a walrus.

Pleasure rises in a child’s eye, not ours.

We are the owners of Bickle and Blame.

We load each other up in the loveless game.

Our notes have become as final as a curse.

Thoughts we once objected to have become friendly.

Shows of contempt have a familiar ring.

We determine not to pretend.

We try not to worry about the end.

Our last night is as calm as a coat.

The naked body is embarrassed.

We hold each other close.

Small hearts call up small thoughts.

Nostalgia’s candle quickly goes out.

Will you love me? Will you hold me true?

Only if I am cast outside of you.

Nobody listens to me

Nobody listens to me.

I grow up in the martial art of killing insects.

In the morning I run outside to defeat the army of ants.

Dismembered, the remains are put in dad’s coffee cup.

I grind them into hot water and milk, a foaming antaccino.

Dad is reading the paper, turning pages as a casual thought.

He frowns but this is due to his bloody team being beaten again.

Then he glances at me. 'Thanks, a little granulated for me.'

A surreptitious wink. 'We won’t tell mum will we boy?'

Dad’s a weirdo. Mum left us years ago, couldn’t cope.

Nobody listens to me.

I declare war on spiders, mutilating them, leg by leg.

Just as I watch them do to insects caught in the sticky webs.

I tear heads off, showing no sympathy.

You never do with your enemy.

Corpses are joined together in a line to the clothesline.

My line of betrayal disappears overnight and the webs return.

Dad suggests there might be a spider afterlife.

And the poor little creepers come back as themselves.

'A form of punishment,' he adds, and looks rather sad.

Nobody listens to me.

At my school I burn every room authority puts me in.

I am getting fanciful as each one is still there in the morning.

Teachers enjoy agreeing I have an over-active imagination.

I refuse to rite, miss teaks are friends.

Twice I murder my critics except they don’t move.

The teaching brigade writes up long reports.

The boy needs psychiatric help. Show sympathy

and he over-reacts, cutting you up as his enemy.

Adolescence arrives. Girls give me the cold shoulder.

My life will need to be a lot bolder.

Nobody listens to me.

I become as cunning as penguin necrophilia.

My defence is an inability to know the difference.

I stalk the night, the silent figure in dismal shadows.

My moans are authentic enough to terrify me.

Dad says he’s unable to help me anymore.

I’m left with enough money to live off for six months.

'After that you are on your own.' Dad is a thoughtful bloke.

I know he will come back. It’s one of his weird jokes.

I talk my language, pushing my way through each nosy day.

Nobody listens to me.

Graffiti figures are sprayed on brick walls around me.

I rampage. I silently yell. I whisper in nightmares.

I will cast you down without a care.

My skin pales. I am as thin as a lamppost.

My part-time job is helping out in the morgue.

I never told them I’m still meant to be at school.

Corpses have gentleness; an anything goes approach.

I get on with everyone. Translators are not needed..

Years have gone as friendly as a ghost.

Nobody listens to me.

I am fading from memory, including my own.

I use dad’s gun. He never believed his son stole it.

My victims are selected with ease, as random as idealism.

We will both become successful, famous on Facebook.

Selection is easy, those of the, you’re-invisible look.

Location: centre of the city. Time: midday in spring.

There are as many cameras as people. Hello to you all.

The gun is emptied. Screams break out. Bodies fall.

I am tackled and sat on by a mountain of anger.

It’s the kid from the morgue. Evening news.

Finally, I have everyone’s attention,

except I am so used to nobody listening to me

that I have nothing to say.



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