Justin Lowe – Breakdown

Lowe LE P&W May 2023

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing May 2023

Breakdown, poems by Justin Lowe


there are probably better ways
to spend your time

but this one time
there was rain and a snapped timing belt

and a sigh of Sunday nothing
on a potholed back road

between a cobwebbed truck stop
and a tidy town blink-of-an-eye

and the crows were sleek
and murder-black in the rain

all clumsy gambols in the lowland updrafts
and the spring lambs all bundled

like gossamer under the drooping trees
and a dog barking somewhere at the distant thunder

like a giant stirring in the hills
while I started counting each fence post

and marvelling at the tireless industry of the dead

Victor Hugo

when I write myself into my stories
my characters flinch a little
at my disingenuousness
like seasoned travellers at the breathless arriviste

the stories themselves are rambling
coarse-grained, I am not
the most lapidary of writers

and the characters themselves
the ones I write me into
tend to hold steady against
the flow of events

while everyone around them
relishes the slow unravelling
that never comes

I think, perhaps
my prose
is crueller than my poetry
if only just

there is light
at many of my stories’ denouements
the soft pealing of bells

but that
is only because
the characters keep on scratching
until the lid is finally opened

theirs is a defiant courage
bordering on resignation
they carry silver bullets to the barricades

I think
my poems manage
to find space for tenderness
that my stories cannot

the stories flow easily
whereas the poems do not
because events crowd out the human

there is a flaw
in my technique somewhere
I see that now –
stories should not write themselves

on the other hand

yes, there is
most definitely a flaw
in my approach –
perhaps more emphasis on greetings

rather than farewells

Milton Friedman

becomes my forte
at 2am

robbing Peter the plumber
to pay Paul the mechanic
May to raise a glass to June

this one
has soothing letterhead
that one is stamped in blood red

I find myself
whistling some insipid tune
I heard on call waiting

the way a slow drip
works on the mind
of a chained man dying of thirst

I find myself
balancing my days like a ledger:
I only realise now I am one of their oldest recruits

Light Horse

at Sidon
a game of two-up went all day
behind a low wall away from the officers.

the donkeys brayed at their tethers
each time the coins were tossed.

drunk NCO’s with their wilting plumes –
the losers of the game –
staggered off to aim their rifles at the market beggars
through the dust of the General’s motorcade.

on both sides of the pitted road
the ground bloated and belched
over the Turks’ shallow graves

while a sniper groaned
beneath the flagstaff where he’d been pinned
Christ-like with his dead comrades’ bayonets.

the ravens couldn’t brave
the sharp steel long enough
to get at his eyes:

great cruelties, it would seem, harbour small mercies

© Justin Lowe

Justin Lowe lives in a house called Doug in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney where he edits international poetry blog, Bluepepper. Justin has just completed a collection of short stories while his ninth collection of poetry sits on the publisher’s desk.

One Reply to “Justin Lowe – Breakdown”

  1. Thank for this. Enjoyable reading the work of this man I know more as a publisher than a writer. Like your style Justin.

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