September 2020

Back to Issue 8

silent approach

By Nathan Shepherdson


your defoliant shadow leaves you with nothing but sunlight


crisp air swings its murdered hand

in contrast to the falconer’s glove

that waits for your father to land


as the wasp stings the mirror your image swells


the tonal palette you emit from your displayed absence

yet to arrive as it takes your hand and you both walk

eyes closed through the crushed mineral state

into the monogamous colour theory of one man


the figure as a trenchcoat keyhole

imagines itself unmarried to an open door


in the nostrils of the approached and the approaching

sulphur unpacks the cold


in one downward stroke

the thermometer is painted over


at last count mercury was not elected

to the register of favoured poisons


simplicity is simply the simple white pill

on a push-mower tongue that is never swallowed


this is the possibility of who the coat carries in its pockets


lint as raw fibre unspun to memory

deep in the digestive tract of prospective touch


[ …  gust-powered . . . the pincers

from a single chlorophyll claw

breaks open this mock ovoid head

to disperse the conscience in turpentine fog … ]


angles are never alone until they’re measured


vertical + cranial = horizontal

vertical + cranial = horizon(  )


grey poles as the three graces

sucked through the straw

of their own shadows


here is the restraint you sift through a soft valve

only to recapture it using an eyelash

as fishing line


the exotic servitude

with which you climb inside

plain things


the skin lisp

of the wall as it walks

through itself


the theosophical errand

you continue to run to yourself

in order to forget what the message is


as always or not at all

art allows us to comply with its request

to retrace the steps that never occurred


what you can’t see is joined at the lip


what the eyes exhale to surface

though pores for thought

inculcated in sleep from medicated colour


your request to blindness

to confess its symmetry

will be ignored

will be accepted


they would have us sink worms

as supple tent pegs into each other’s graves




silent approach – c. 1924 – oil on board by Clarice Beckett – collection NGA. After her death, her former teacher Max Meldrum graded her work based on how closely Beckett had applied the tenets of his theory of Australian Tonalism.