ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Philip Hammial

Elevator Music

Holy matrimony blathering on about the newbies’
lewd copulations. If only Pasolini was here to film
Mary Pickford puckered for a kiss. Dare I? Dare I?
Wonder what, so long dead, she’s been licking? Abe
Lincoln postage stamps? Considering what I could catch
I’m sticking with desperate Susan, her seeking a cause
célèbre in a language-huddle more up my alley although
the fat cats foraging for past-their- use-by-date aphrodisiacs
won’t share with me. OK, I was about to swap a few morsels
from my vast, & I do mean vast, collection
of watch hands for a few pills. Which swap, hands
for pills, would have been a perfect opening
for that Pasolini film. You blew it, friends.
You really did.
                         Let’s have a look at the rushes: a tracking
shot at a snail pace through a Saturday night sprawl
at The Couples’ Club. Could you slow down a bit more?
I’m sure I recognize a few friends & neighbours & relatives
in that mess. If so, I’d love to join in, with
your permission of course.
                                           Selfish bastard, what about
the collateral damage? You mean those nuns? It wasn’t me
who let them in, not by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin.
Time for a hit of insulin, calm you down, get your paw
off that thigh. And that grin off your face. Your taste
in brides is appalling (we’re talking Mother here). Genetic?
Inherited from that Sing Sing screw of a father, like you
a stickler for protocol.
                                    Wolf! Can’t think of anything
that rimes with wolf & the shepherds aren’t
going to let us off this ferris wheel until we do &
it’s speeding up. Golf! Have a gander
at that gringo in the pork pie hat. What’s he got
tucked under his arm? Not what you think &, no,
he’s not on his way to a barbeque. Give
us a clue. Kowtow siesta. Sequel to
the machinations of those de rigueur spruikers spruiking
Mother Hubbard charm at the local live show, an out
of body experience yours for the asking or you can out-
source in one of the muscle cars purring
on Top Gun Street, point blank bang bang, night-
on-the-town drunks dropping like flies, retro panegyrists
picking up the pieces. Too much noise, sleep deprivation
fingering them out from the cracks, the cinéma
vérité Huns who without further ado proceed to
lock, stock & barrel the entire population of If. It
makes no difference. Do we?



Water Sports

That smirch gaff was intentional. Not so
the bog crunch. Oops-a-daisy here comes
panty-on-rye. Your kicks where you can. At
the Tusk Club, Bo Jangle look-alikes puckered
for peaches, apples not their thing. And cream, don’t
forget the cream. Gosh almighty, ain’t you done
smoochin’ yet? I finished three days ago, too much nice
in that mix. Matter of fact I’m only in it
for the gravitas. So who’s speaking through you now?
The Diva, the one & only Diva Smith. Can’t believe
she’d hug your body like that & fill your mouth
with such spleen. Yuk. Look, over yonder’s that prick
who hexed my spoon. Been gloom ever since. The
obvious antidote: get some trash into this ecdysiastic..
equation, pi squared plus comb equals – oops –
cockerel malfunction. What happened
to quality control? Out to lunch – love juice punch
with a dash of Jane. Though I say NO to feel
she loves the way I peel
bananas. Consecrate this image why doncha
& move on… To? To that swap you promised
how long ago? six months at least – a tin of rain
for a tin of snow. Bad luck Boy Blue, the day
I keep a promise is the day I top a roo. Ten quid says
you’ll never top Jenene, as mean as a plague
of unfavourable omens, that one. Who is my love,
my only true, & I’m sure she’s yours too. If
you must know it’s my addiction to hoochie coochi
that keeps me in her shack, tick-tack toes, yum, she’s
got a gun I’m on the run. A canoe! There MUST be
a canoe in this poem – on a river, the Niger, heading
for Bamako, a blue canoe with a reggae band, four
Rastafarians from Jamaica – No Woman No Cry
what are they doing in Mali?


Red Shift

Thin air’s latest product: my melatonin babe
to whom obeisance must be paid
by mewling chorus boys, the whole transaction
recorded by a tracking shot – received wisdom

flummoxed by backspin. Where did you say
the mantrap was? – in that swamp of what we failed
to put to rights, that ugly identikit that bottomed out
in shipwreck, transmission impossible

for the marks in the moon shuttle who, bad luck,
could certainly use a bit of vamping this late
in the game (it’s 3am). Might as well capitulate
to the director of this would-be film noir, force

his hand, those nickel & dime extras off the set
before the credits roll. Too late, our names
in slow dissolve, our heroics conflated with a faux
afterglow. Anyway, the plot is stupid; it simply

doesn’t add up. Ten minutes into the action why jump-
cut to the theme song as a hectoring device, Claudia
hissing her farewell through yellow teeth? Ipso facto
it’s a self-fulfilling curse that special-effects no matter

how special can’t undo. Might as well accept
the entrapment & get on with it, whatever
it was. I can’t remember. Can you? Something
about the chancellor’s daughter, how we were about

to disabuse her of the notion that an increase in dosage
would shush the shrinks, send them & their proxy
impersonators packing. Missy, they’re here to stay.
In any case can’t you see how inept they are? –

trying to flog that piece of the cross, obviously a crude
forgery, & ditto the tooth. Struth, woman, have you been
solarized? Or is it just a bit of wrongful enjambment
that has you whistling Dixie whenever some idiot

hoists a flag? Or hosts with bread.
Keep mewling, you won’t be fed.
If I were you I’d take to my bed.
Sans gravity we’d all be dead. A fly

in aspic as a metaphor for the mot juste
that you’ll never hear – the roar of the crowd
cheering Seduction, a photo finish
that will keep the punters up in arms

for a month of Sundays, a rhetorical flourish
that could you hear it might proclaim
that the Cure is nigh! Which of course
it isn’t, is nothing but a recorded message

that some fire & brimstone fool forgot
to switch off before he disembodied himself
with a flagon of cheap red, safe haven
not on the cards. Why did you think

it would be? The god hustlers are all
in utero & the last checkpoint was closed
in ’97. You can bear witness, false or true,
as much as you like it won’t make sliver

of difference to anyone, not even to the marks
on the moon shuttle as they fade from sight,
a red shift that belies thin air’s latest product:
my babe to whom obeisance must be paid.



Sixty tigers dead & we’ve only just started.
If you mess with Mabel we’ll surely crash (she’s driving,
in case you haven’t noticed). Don’t ever mistake
the M-4 for the I-66 again. Yes, that’s a threat.

Tumbled from Lot’s bed, they made us kneel for prayer.
That echolalia (plus helicopter gusts) has the stretcher-
bearers confused – who to carry first & where? And more
to the point – are we listed? – lunatic, looney, headcase,

nutter? In short, in The Natural History of Insanity Fritz
Waugh got it wrong. The loss of that shoe had nothing to do
with that failed coup. So back to basics: This Who’s Who
has the Comeback Kid in bed with Louise when in fact

she’s not his squeeze & never was. If we drink to that
will the Kid be offended, pull out a gun, bang? – A coffin
on wheels pulled by a snow-white mule, now that’s
what I call style: When we race, me & brother, in the scald

car we race Nam Style & beat File Bacon. Beat by a mile,
so why you ask us speak Mama when everybody know
she the same side we carry sister? Can’t answer that
can you? Is why we’ve got a photo of you nailed

to the mast: Wanted, preferably dead. Staggering up
the toy-strewn gangway, drunk again & there you go,
down like a beer keg; bad luck/good riddance/anchors
aweigh. What a sorry town – abandoned brothels, empty

theatres, a rotting manta ray on the Town Hall steps, drops
of blood from the beak of a fighting cock leading us…
nowhere. Why did we follow them? Hoping for what?
That wall-eyed whistle blowers will wash up

on Muscle Beach & win the under fours sack race?
God help us if they do we’ll need at least a week
to recover if we’re lucky, haven’t worked out yet how
to avoid those rent-a-crowd angels who, half a chance,

will slap us at breakfast AND lunch AND dinner: Smack
Smack Smack & no dab (just a little would do us), would
send those chattering penitents on their merry way
down Yahweh Lane. God speed, & may your tinkering

with clapped-out demarcations prove beneficial to
those Bible louts under the care of Father Brown riding
rough through Roosevelt, Pocatello off to the left. What’s
left is nun-tease & a smidgeon of hagiolatry with a soft spot

for scam talents. Which is where we come in/back
for an encore – same old razz but, hey, listen to this
new matazz: we’re armed to the teeth & out for game,
sixty tigers dead & we’ve only just started.


Philip Hammial has had twenty nine poetry collections published. His work has appeared in numerous anthologies in five countries. He has represented Australia at twelve international poetry festivals, most recently at the Struga Poetry Evenings in 2015

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