James Walton – Uncaged animals

P James Walton LE P&W Vol 1 2019

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Poems by James Walton

James Walton is published in many anthologies, magazines, and newspapers. He was a librarian, a farm labourer, and mostly a public sector union official. He resigned from an elected position in 2014 to write. His books include ‘The Leviathan’s Apprentice’ 2015, ‘Walking Through Fences’ 2018, and ‘Unstill Mosaics’ 2019. He has been previously shortlisted for the ACU National Literature Prize, The MPU International Poetry Prize, The James Tate Prize, Jupiter Artland, The William Wantling Prize, and is a winner of the Raw Art Review Chapbook Prize for “Abandoned Soliloquies’ to be published shortly, but as a full-length collection. He lives in Wonthaggi, Victoria, Australia, in a Federation house which was once a maternity ward.

Uncaged animals                       

They speak
but then they don’t
these handlers of truth

their baton tongues rattle
along loose evaporating bars

we see through a decline
without any nurture
the promise withering within


I’ll hold your hand
step out Fred and Ginger
fall and rise

hand on cuff less wrist
over this diapason rescue

but then again

the sideshow ennui
calls us back
one last performance

we will grow tired
of the ringmaster’s whip
stand up with the big cat
nine tails or lives

if you slip
I will slip too
one for one
this is how a number grows.

They don’t know about horses

those who talk of standing sleep
how they curl like cats
snuffle ground as wingless dragons

or idle attent in the full sun

because there are not enough days
to feel earth undulate in the tease of burlap

pose rump into the weather

always alert for the summons
the startled flap of plovers
as unshod hooves cherish gallop

then call across fences

their voices tuned for a herd
whickering out the lost posse

rubbing morse on iron gates

the criss cross code of a sudden lick
a scrape of brisket colour
to mark the strain in barbed wire

and always their eyes of finest glaze
seeking truth in the most human places

Three hundred and sixty seconds is all it took

fewer than a ghost town
where the currawongs
scrawl their names

the half tail feral cat
hiccups the last budgie’s feathers

the post office doors
open outward

once a river dawdled
many places to go

environmental flows
lapsed in occupation
big trees rolled
throughout the compass

six-minute people
scratch out lives
the win beneath the crinkle

hesitates for bearing

set and dawn
the twenty-four hours persist
faith swings
out of the pendulum chime

calls out the broken testament
see what time it really is
against the oldest occupation*

*Indigenous leaders point out that white occupancy of the Australian continent if measured against the timescale of indigenous settlement, would amount to only six minutes against 24 hours.

© James Walton