Phone conversations act as temporary rooms

rooms for voices lifting out of bodies (and countries)

In these rooms where the boundaries of time and place

appear to have fallen away

what is buried might be given space to return


I can’t bear the economy of u

without a y to begin

no belly-round o can follow

You is not a one letter word

it is always at least two

a splitting of self to talk to oneself

or the triad of you talking to me talking to you

This is a tirade

When I first saw Superman’s hands-free

below the belt they were roaming

but they missed their connection with Lois’s thighs

he was talking to the sky

I worked with a man like him once

marched behind him up High Street on pension day

at the manic end of depression

he was punching the air

re-enacting the sacking of Whitlam

and his well may we say god save the queen

Our voices reveal what we are

uncertain and halting

slipped tongues rolling

throat catches

our breath

The reed flute never lies

The ney is played

unafraid of the sound of breath

the breath never lies

when it lies still

you’re dead

If life is just a surplus of breath

cry me back to my reed bed


Time takes us apart like carriages of a train

I shunt you onto a plane

and like a caboose I think I can

smile at your relief

as you slip through custom’s door

to lift your voice, body and all

Your relief makes me smile

and I forget

I was going to cry my way back to my reed bed

Instead     I drove home to bed

to read

We undid the bounding conditions of presence

sped up the snailness of letters

now you carry a mobile

through the streets of Taksim

Like a big brother and not your lover

I can call you, text you up


I could be the fright in your pocket

the fatal break in your eyes

as you weave through honking taxis

round the square in Taksim.


Spare me the economy of u

If the y hits the wall

then uh-oh the belly o

Elizabeth Grosz said

you can’t escape the building to get into cyberspace

cyberspace is not transcendent

of real space or walls

Hafız said

write a thousand luminous secrets

upon the wall of existence

Let’s take a secret connection

and illuminate a lie

in green buttons inside your palm

Watch any man or woman texting in the park

to understand that life is no longer elsewhere

just approximately so

commitment falls into almost missed meetings

why can’t we just meet tomorrow

on the corner at 12?

A mobile means you can change your mind

a thousand times on your way

Another lie of connection

You wait on the corner for your lover at 12

he comes running and grabs both your hands

he’s just glad to see you

is that a mobile in his pocket?

It starts to ring

and what do you think

your position is now?

Bloody nowhere

You are cut and suddenly pasted

outside of time and space

u is the beginning of economy

don’t ask y     he just left

and took away his diddly-O.


In the middle of a farewell speech

against the wall of a darkened room

a lone black handbag starts to ring

no one owns up

because no one owns up to hand grenades

at least not straight away

Down Burwood Highway

in the front yard of a church

the sign of a cross sprouts

from the opening petals of a mobile tower

mobiles come second to the One

because their omniscience is only limited.

Mobiles fill the silence before heaven

if your plane is plummeting out of the sky

you can phone your lover

and chart the moments until you die

I can’t bear the economy of u

The y collapsed and ground zero out

The ney is the sound of the desert

of hollow and sometimes angry air


Beyond red flags by the thousand

sickle moons and stars

that is where you are

I hear your voice in a courtyard

off the square in Taksim

We are growing small

delayed by the edge

of our breath on the phone

Our voices travel hours

in a compression of space and time

but we can’t transcend the building

we have to walk through it to get outside

The walls might fall and bury us

beneath the weight of heavy secrets

we make light of our resistance

we are breaking up

What breaks us?

A bottom-feeding fish chewing on a cable

Or is it turbulence from the sky?

If we are breaking up

Does this prove that instant is not perfection?

If this is connection     I’ll remember that

if I am resistant     I recognize that.

I have no desire for autogenesis

all I want from technology is to turn it on


I can’t bear the economy of u

u the unclosed zero swallowing

our y and o

There can be no heroes

if there’s no dying to the world

I’d like to be dead sometimes

vacant for patches slip from my mind

to a place where no authorial voice

can find me

Give me the sound of the desert

of breath blowing

inside an empty bottle of red


But listen

listen to the call for placeless prayer

like minarets without mosques

we can be free of telephone boxes

and yellow fangs in the wall

forget Clark Kent – he’ll just have to find

some place else to change

It is perfect that I can find you

although the keypad can’t predict your name

I have to spell it out between the sheets

so I can lean to you across water

Over Dili’s depression of sea

beyond Indonesia and amnesia

the hammerhead clouds shade the fading blood

of this darkening hemisphere

I am hungry and I have no one to look after.

Kuala Lumpur

a fairytale of black harbours

water city of sprawling octopus lights

godhead lamps     whole serpents of them

To the red moon of Tashkent     hiding

behind clouds of vacuumed up dust

dispersing till I can see that it is smiling

with pumpkin eyes and cut out teeth

It is perfect I can find you

as you buy a bag of cherries

from a street stall in Taksim

My hunger is surging and I escape this building

in a jumbo not crashing but heaving up the halls

I tuck in my wings and rocket up the minaret shafts

this low flying plane gracing the golden spires

of softly served purple mosques

my co-pilot from the department of statistics

has interest in this dream because he can’t remember one

Relationships are distant bodies

left behind but recurring dreams

like bigamy without marriage

and all our silly buried objects

I am wanting and nostalgic for return

to a more simply furnished womb

for two dollar shops to be swept off footpaths

and for mobiles to stop running

like a thousand children headless

to my pleas for quiet

If you march down manic streets

with blue teeth and talk to the sky

you might swallow a fly, or worse

you could swallow a horse

and you’ll die of course

If I keep repeating

switching words and letters in minute variation

will I achieve perfection like the Man-Man of Naipaul?

Angela Brennan said in a painting

mobile phones are no good for poetry

The mobile tome is written

upon a thousand lies of connection

filling up the space before heaven

whatever you conceive it to be

I keep repeating not because I repress

but because the past keeps wringing my present

its unfinished business bearing the paradox of burials

you love him precisely

because he would never leave his wife


If I can’t be below your belt

will you let me under your shirt?

Hands-free upon skin we’ll go roaming

beneath the minarets without mosques

collecting on hills above cities

like Eiffel towers with their legs shut

Clark Kent we’ll have to strip in the wide open air

If we are breaking up make me one last prank call

with your breath so heavy it blocks out the sound

of a thousand walls wailing

with the fictions of our resistance

As you drop out of range     remember

you are not my present passing away

but an unstatic being at the other end of flight

Bury my head without ostriches in the sand

and man     if this really be the end

I want to be stuck inside your mobile

with your breath against my skin


The presentation of this paper at ‘Lies: A Conference on Art’ in Fiji, 5 July 2007, accompanied a recording of the ney (Turkish reed flute) improvised by Phil Carroll.


Coleman Barks (trans)(1995). The Essential Rumi (San Francisco: HarperCollins).

Angela Brennan (2004). ‘Mobile Phones’ oil on linen, 92.5 x 70.35cm in Heat10, New Series, 2005, (Artarmon, NSW: Giramondo Publishing Company).

Gilles Deleuze (1994). Difference and Repetition (New York: Columbia University Press).

Elizabeth Grosz (2001). Architecture from the Outside: Essays on Virtual and Real Space (Massachusetts: Massachusetts Institute of Technology).

Daniel Ladinsky (trans) (1996). The Gift: Poems by Hafız (New York: Penguin Compass).