City of Literature Poems

Dear friends,

If you follow me on Twitter, you may know this by now, but for those of you who don’t: I have been writing poems–one a week–for the Melbourne City of Literature office over the course of this month and publishing them on their Facebook page. It’s not been easy writing poetry on demand but it’s been an interesting experience, especially as they are specifically place-based poems reflecting my time in this city. As the last of these poems will be published tomorrow, I thought I’d write a post collating them here.

1. Greasy Wings on Swanston St

a day   like a paragraph  can be reread
to glean new meaning. it refuses to set
in this city of horses   of stamping &
stink   the high heat a trenchant
hoof beating slick foreheads in
a slow   religious   drumming.
this city brags bout its grease
but there is nothing   special
to this KFC except the tiny birds
hopping across the floor &
darting into the middled air
there to hang     spastic
with need   a feathered fist
small as a heart & taloned too.
a hollow-boned martyr
drawn in by the reek of family,
the lure of a struggle ending
in a slop bucket, the bird
refuses to set.   like any heart
it fights change, wants no more
than to stay exactly where it is
a perfect present dripping
with ghosts shiny as a teen
dimpled cheek. it’s OK,
this place with its furious beasts,
its past drenching the lips
of every building & crane.
neither of us can read the other.
i leave   the bird to its battle,
my own heart     echoes.

2. Love on High St

Love     it’s an odd thing
to call real estate, but that hasn’t stopped
this agency selling one-bedroom love for $330,000
and a two-bed two-bath family love
for a cool half million. Love is on
the auction block & I’m not bidding
a dollar. I’ve been priced out of love
into lust, a simile for just enough.
Turn onto High St, rough restaurant city
of pawnbrokers, Greek markets & coin
launderettes, there is something
for everyone     except the lost.
I think about this when I pass
the Night Café, open each morning.
Fronds of old men curl the edges
playing cards & smoking all day.
You know these men as well:
retired workers    sparse on hair
fat on character     fingers ribbed
with old country      callouses,
smoke branching out nostrils into
fruitless bush. They laugh & speak
night’s liquid language     the kind
that keeps you up into a blue dawn
hushed with unknowing   I only see
these old fathers    in the light,
catching stories in silver nets
of arm hair      at night I presume
they let loose what they caught
a day’s work      a labour of love
to brighten the measureless black
hanging over so much real estate.

3. Fridays in the Park (or how to make a boy holy)

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4.

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That’s all four! Hope you’ve enjoyed them xo

New Year, New Book

Dear readers,

2017 has just begun and I’m thrilled to say my debut poetry collection, These Wild Houses, is finally here and it’s introduced by none other than award-winning poet Judith Beveridge.

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It feels like only yesterday I began my Thursday Poems segment on this blog, writing about a different poem I’d read that week, and it wasn’t too long before that when I started to write poetry seriously. Four years, in total. I am terrified about this book, and I’m excited, and I’m relieved all at once. Did I do enough work, is it good enough? Should I have waited another four years, since I already know what I’m writing now is so much better? These thoughts plague me. Then I remember I have a book, a real book with a real publisher, and I’m stunned into a kind of stupid gratitude that renders such thoughts meaningless.

I’m always worried about the quality of my work, I’m always more critical than anyone else is of it, and that’s as it should be. I remember where I came from, the violence, the drugs, the cousins killed on the street, the mates in jail, on ice, broke and broken; I catch up with them as often on the news as I do in real life. I feel always a pervading guilt that I got away, that I managed to survive as intact as I have. I feel always a need to return alongside a need to get even further away. When I think about these things I am left with a childish wonder that I should be so lucky, that books saved me and gave me a voice to speak, that most of my scars are internal, most of my issues easy to hide.

Today, friends, I am going to hold onto that wonder. I want to thank you, all of you who follow me here or on Twitter, for joining me, for supporting me. I don’t know where I’d be without the online community I’ve found, especially as my struggles with family have only deepened. What joy, what luck, to have your love. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

If you’re interested, you can purchase a copy here. If not, I look forward to seeing you around, regardless. Happy new year y’all 🙂

Love,
Omar