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[a] man

Neil Armstrong was a good looking man who liked to fly planes. He was a highly educated man too, one of the first in his family to be able to describe himself as such, despite not ever being seen as much of an intellectual, despite being a man who could have been and was described as ‘good with his hands’. Surprisingly, later on in Neil Armstrong’s life someone said (or was overheard saying) that Neil ‘had a mind that absorbed things like a sponge.’ This may or may not have surprised Neil Armstrong. Certainly he relied on his daring above all else and so was not often shocked. Like most men who blithely succeed at life’s various tasks, he wasn’t one to dwell on the occasional failures. But this wasn’t a conscious decision on his part. Memory – and therefore the capability to reflect upon and derive truths from the various images and narratives attached to said faculty – was not one of Neil Armstrong’s strong points. As life rolled on accordingly Neil Armstrong did try his best to remember various mundane facts and figures (some such things are necessary in any life) but he rarely could. For example, he might be out buying household items, and while counting out stray quarters and dimes he would just know there was something essential he had not remembered to purchase. That particular something would always elude him until it was too late. Milk? Toilet paper? Rodent-bait? It would worry him albeit only for a little while. Eventually Neil Armstrong would just crack a joke or make a statement about the weather; sometimes he might talk about his hopes and dreams, even to annoyed customers behind him waiting to be served. People were charmed and would usually forgive him the milk. In this way his mind only really disturbed him occasionally, when he awoke in strange hotel rooms on interstate trips for instance: why couldn’t he remember the things that mattered? It made no sense. (As Neil Armstrong walked out on his mother for the last time, smiling a vague patriotic line, she said ‘Pick up a bottle of gin for me, there’s a god boy.’ He couldn’t forget that, even though it was out-of-character, almost definitely a product of her impending dementia, and therefore irrelevant). Neil Armstrong sent off an application to the Manned Spacecraft Centre thinking about whether or not it would be cold enough to wear a light sweater when he went out to the bar that evening. It almost certainly increased his sense of immortality, this lackadaisical foolishness. And when Neil Armstrong, the ‘first civilian astronaut’, found out that the other more experienced astronauts had died in a terrible accident, in a gung-ho contradictory manner (that was to become typical) he and the other guys drank scotch to the tune of what happened. His predecessors (like Neil) believed a fifty percent chance of death was what you lived with when you went out the door each morning. In those days there were risks in trusting science. And so it was determined, Neil Armstrong would be the first person on the Moon. Perhaps it was because of his small ego; perhaps it was because of his surefootedness, derring-do. Neil Armstrong wasn’t told. Neil Armstrong was destined to become the living embodiment of a principle, a testament to ‘fact’. Neil Armstrong drank Gin when he was alone and not on the base. This was known but deemed okay. Neil Armstrong had a crescent moon carved out of Styrofoam and attached much importance to it – he thought of it often, and was stupidly sure he would never forget it. It stood for so much. Neil Armstrong was happy that he didn’t suffer motion-sickness as he flew to the moon and he thanked the crescent moon, privately, in his mind. He tried to focus on what he would say. It had been a long time since he’d bought his own groceries. He’d been thinking about this a lot recently: he would like to tell the world a little about himself if it were possible. But perhaps that wouldn’t be relevant as he rounded upon the new terrestrial. Neil Armstrong just couldn’t speculate.

Neil Armstrong decided on the moon-ploy early on. His name now meant truth. And communication hadn’t advanced to where it theoretically would be in the future, yet, so he would simply stick with the story that he had said it. Or if he hadn’t, if it did come to that, he had meant to. That would get him through the first round of interviews and guest-lectures at any rate. Or no-one would care. This was conceivable. Nobody quite new whether or not there would be any interest in his words. They were just words, after all. Nobody liked Buzz Aldrin. And Michael Collins would become a Wikipedia reference at best, or a metaphor for alienation; his hometown would never name him on the welcome sign, having better and more famous Italian things to spruik. Neil Armstrong was sure Buzz Aldrin had taken the pen they had used to guarantee the safety of the mission too. He was sticking to the line that he’d dropped it somewhere on the moon, but Neil Armstrong wasn’t that stupid. The pen would probably show up years later and be purchased for millions by a collector. But it would only be because Neil Armstrong had led the mission. People liked Neil Armstrong. Neil Armstrong focussed on the future and only ever contemplated success. Neil Armstrong was a good American boy, and, come to think of it, later on in his life he would be sure only to use his name to promote American companies, corporate entities that only organised such things as making cars, or digging for coal. It seemed like the right thing to do. Because even the most blatantly contradictory statements can become paradoxes, clauses that become quite useful to mankind, even if only in a ‘really makes you think’ literary sense. A paradox contains the seed of a deeper truth within its ostensibly contradictory exterior. It’s like ‘What?’, but then ‘Oh…’ Less is more, et cetera. On one of the more nightmarish post-Moon days in quarantine Neil Armstrong begins to think that Man does equal mankind. It really does. It must. And the best sorts of people are American. Americans cast off their Colonial oppressors years ago and then just set about pushing the boundaries. Only in America, thought Neil Armstrong, could a man like Neil Armstrong succeed. If America needs my help, as a man who didn’t die – as a spokesman for man, a spokesman for [a] man, a spokesman for mankind – I must provide my services. Neil Armstrong shared his thoughts with Buzz Aldrin (Michael Collins was positioned somewhere towards the extremities of the quarantine capsule and not within earshot) but Buzz seemed only to feign interest, thinking instead of the pen hidden in his suit perhaps (Buzz Aldrin’s name would come to stand for coming second; inevitably he was commissioned for less corporate advertising). Naturally as time passed Neil Armstrong forgot all the mental processes behind his patriotic decision – but he stuck to it. The veracity of the speech didn’t matter. The appropriateness of his status as a cultural icon of truth did matter. The reasons and evidence that explained all that he did in the future could never matter. Holding on to his momentum did matter. Neil Armstrong realised a poor memory had never held him back. Neil Armstrong had lived, was living, the dream. Neil Armstrong quietly thanked the Styrofoam Crescent Moon. Night was falling outside the quarantine shell but he couldn’t tell. His course would never deviate.

(first published in Going Down Swinging #29)

saving draft

there is no real reason not to place a framed self-portrait in your toilet. it should be something realistic – not too abstract. when guests use your toilet they will see the portrait. they will think about you and think about the way you see yourself. then, they will wonder why you have placed this self-portrait in your toilet. they will imagine you using the toilet, looking at yourself, a version of yourself you have indeed created. your guests will wonder at your inscrutable motives and but they will emerge from the toilet and strike up conversation about something unrelated.

if you like you could also create a word document titled ‘rooms i might mount my self-portrait in.docx’. the document could list most of the rooms in your house, or, it could list just a few (the contents of the document might only be * toilet  * laundry). and you could print it off this document. you could leave it somewhere where it is sure to be observed, say pinned to the fridge by a magnet.

the point is you really need some good reasons not to do these things. otherwise you may as well just be sitting still.

thought not

so hard at 5.30 she said, heedless from the other side
it was a noisy plateau branches swept astray &
strewn aside by coffee scented fingertips
i felt all of this / mind you

these forays brief as a frozen foods aisle recount
men bustle, former ambassadors
when the seasons align, when we all
rode on a ‘hay bail’    hey now

when the first lamp is punched there’s
a new purpose to loving – ever notice
your wrist for the first time in a while &
get all nostalgic about evolution

fling those sheets & generate
a mantra like alacrity! or something


in the t-shirted midday he jogs away

the three kilometres, sheep seem profound

considering things less than last year,

perhaps more alive / or, a blanketish blasé

it’s the crows on this stretch of road, big

fucking things, that make themselves notable

he notes them later, legs sharing a blanket

with her, the adjectives of light that

make things gold / i copy thomas

uncertainly, wondering at

birds & death on a birthday

yeah i appear at the end


hi james. i’m sorry i haven’t even started reading your poems.

imagine business, trade, traffic of any variety as things.

but i saw a girl hock & spit into someone’s front yard.

yesterday, a (different) girl tripped, hard, corrected herself.

both quickly glanced around. whipped their teenage hair. the car

envelops me. what is travel like? i’ve been listening to talk radio, but

everything will pass. like girls ambling the suitable footpath.

i am privy to all the ‘what does he want for his birthday?’ texts.

imagine your life without decisions. you’d have far

less freedom, but might possess a high-speed car.

people were clustering for chats in the supermarket.

much more than usual. i overheard ‘i just wanted

to move some blue into the room.’ will i ever

decorate interiors, james? i’m a terrible critic.


i’ve had this shoulder ache

since childhood. since watching

the olympics from a bunk-bed.

one woman said i’ve just come

to get my umbrella & two men

said we’ve just come to do

a bit of sanding, this in one day.

i fumbled with two sets of keys

from the right pocket, then,

two keys from the same ring

that appear similar. the clouds

sometimes look purplish with snow,

like now, but it never  snows here.

there’s olive trees everywhere.

apparently you can pickle them,

but i haven’t. reheated pasta &

orange & mango juice for lunch.

the car seems to be running

smoothly after topping the oil.

no notifications. wait.

the sanding men,

that was yesterday.

how have you been.

part three

i climb mountains now. those within a day’s drive

of my home. at the top & of the past &

now none of this is what i meant.

having not noticed the sunsets in a while.

this thought meaning we are through. that thought

meaning more, akin to the final gasp of a screenwriter,

tacky, clichéd, blankly lewd.

where were we when control was wrested?

part of a plaid montage, a featherweight bout no doubt,

me shrieking gorse bush blues & calling it ‘song’.

things are just like in the movies, see.

this fleet foxes soundtrack & a breeze are a sort of proof.

your sexy tattoo & the duplicitous story beneath

guide my private jet through re-entry, through this

alley with shrubs, a slide into town wherefore i’ll keep

all romantic processes loose now: cuddle myself

kiss girls, but only faceless, in the dark

we’d absorbed so much were

more somber than a sea captain’s wife

(one lamp plus her figure a wan shadow

seemingly swallowed in grey paint…)

in this way we are none of us commuters      or alone

but at the same time, i don’t like you.

we’re not close enough. she said.

do you understand?

have you been to other places? it is easy enough

to get there. feign ‘calm’ after a/the Thunderclap

then imagine yourself a painting in a gallery

‘Man battles Rain’

(you are a woman)

you artlessly suck at the day’s pith but

no matter

we both hit the ground breathing.

two doves preen each other & love at each other.

what creatures will mate for life? you should

commission a study / eat pizza.

make it a friday in a place

the depth charge of dollars will spread evenly:

fey lines emboss distance, things proliferate

separating an abstract you

from every villa in the villa district

(a lack of sloth but local colour a triumph!

everywhere maids & cooks are attractive

& freshly showered

(we should trek about & learn the rituals, probably

(don’t act australian (the jut of landscape

ably mirrors your suntanned swagger &

protruding drunken words, or nipples

(besides, we work hard (the beef eating the

water sports the couldn’t-give-a-fuck-ness

part of the culture (telling the story

buying the object uploading the

experience sitting at

a dining table,

that too


let’s go on a health kick janine will say anything

maybe i can stare at this out-of-rego caravan ad till

i get cancer wear this ornamental thin cardigan,

designer specs, & secretly plan a new eco-business

seems she’s traversed every village this side of

of anywhere they’re all extending skateparks &

crediting the youth with potential & like fuck

she has there should be a funding category milf

or a language more effective than all the others

did you say that out loud nan lives hours away

with her aching gut & watery eyes but she can

be edited out knowing our humour sets us apart

let’s download a tv series american writing is

good there’s trees i can’t name out front janine

can but she’s never turned autocorrect off &

it’s cold & it’s overcast & this guy wears an akubra

& walks past now we have just the one stained glass

window if i smash it that’s it let’s hate shopping

she mounted the octagonal table thinking

something careful of councilors concerned

they’d intimate things she’s a fort builder a

bmx enthusiast always arriving a day late

torn from the old clock like a battery

she’d prefer anonymous emails

to the polished oak about the toes

people don’t think about that she

thinks in this instant (a rabble

rouser raised by inefficiency she

corrects her bra & smells tobacco

on the wind, parts her narrative

like it’s possible with a pencil, the

ex-lover killed at an old train

crossing a momentary time persisting

as if an unused postbox she dismounts

not planning to use the ideas she’s seen

for later, eating from a tin

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