David Mortimer – Guest Poet

This month I am very pleased to feature poems and images from David Mortimer’s second collection, Red in the Morning, which was published late last year by Bookends Books.

Red in the Morning is a collection of 99 poems grouped month-by-month, along with 15 original works by photographer Josie Mortimer, the poet’s sister. The poems reproduced here are: firstly, the title poem; secondly, a tribute to Robert Johnson, the American blues singer from the 1930s; and thirdly, a poem written at the time of the Australian waterfront dispute in 1998 – brought to mind as we face even more threatening industrial times in 2006.


The red-in-morning-sailor’s-warning thing
Lights your back, your skin, our whole room
In the slow strobe of an emergency ward

Quieter than thought, than thought can even be thinked
Everything is water-colour linked
Water-colour warned
Warned in its waters

Against embarkation, dies illa
A day when setting out is dangerous, beset

At the beginning, before the start
For any with eyes open
We are given the universal colour of threat
The bard weather-wise
The words curt


Singer song wrought voice guitar supreme
Beyond mastery of craft aware, intent
That no thing shall be other than it is
By any thickness, settled in, called same
And each from each the soul/strings/self laid bare
As this this this this this
Shall own themselves, repeat only themselves, prepare
Only the deepest, freshest, truest, wildest named and struck
Resonance of meaning all through meaning’s
Straightest dance, sweetest play, signally astringent, precipitous
Aching entertainment’s inward mirth
Of impossibly precise sheer joy


Find a forum
Bounce around until
You find a forum, don’t be still
You’ve got to keep moving, as the blues kill
Anything that stands too long
In one place, once
Without sanctuary
Or grace

The hail
Flying sharp
And many-sided will
Razor any fabric any length to lace
Unsinew strength and punch a pattern; spill
The heart of any goodness down the salt of any hill

You find the space
That grounds and shelters
There in time to trace, expand
And mount a case, expound the virtue
And the vice; and hope to cut down inlets
Close down angles that must face the coming
Snarl for access of that whirling hound
Whose muscled hackles rise in turning
Bare computation of a corkscrew’s chance to
Radiating hatred out of meat-dead eyes
The wave of cruelty/ too-much-knowledge/ violent haste
Lays waste, gnaws inward
Likes the blood to race
And yet taste

Red in the Morning (ISBN 1 876725 63 X; RRP $22.95; published November 2005) is available in good book shops, published by Bookends Books (bookends@chariot.net.au) and distributed through Wakefield Press (http://www.wakefieldpress.com.au/), where Mortimer’s previous collection Fine Rain Straight Down is also available, along with collections by Elaine Barker and Tess Driver, in Friendly Street New Poets Eight (Wakefield Press 2003).


Please note that all material appearing on this website is protected under Copyright laws and may not be reproduced, reprinted, transmitted or altered in any form without express written consent of the author.


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