Ken Bolton

A gay, light-hearted bastard, Ken Bolton cuts a moodily romantic figure within the dun Australian literary scene, his name inevitably conjuring perhaps that best known image of him, bow-tie askew, grinning cheerfully, at the wheel of his 1958 Jaguar sports car, El Cid.  It is this image that also carries in its train the stories of later suffering—the affairs, the women, the bad teeth—and, speaking of teeth, the beautiful poems wrenched from the teeth of despair & written on the wrist of happiness “where happiness happens to like its poems written best” (in his inordinate phrase).  (“Inordinate”?—can you use inordinate like that?)
Willing, Reader, Willing

my feet are going to get
cold but I forget them
I am up early / I am
up late
very much
the same
don't you find  -
you, who
are always
out there?  -  I watch
till like my feet
I forget play
a tape quietly
of Wayne Shorter 
-  Ju Ju  -   read
poems of Frank O'Hara,
some of Meaghan  -  "mixity"
is that a word?  why not "mix"?
now my feet are truly cold
as the house awakes & I forget
again their fate
—the fate of
my feet—
which is a little bit
my fate   -  brrr  -  which is also
to Make that toast, make that
tea & take them to you  -
your cool face your warm feet  -

We Meet Again, Traveller

I’m sitting at an outdoor table
in a tiny square in Trastevere.
On a table nearby a pigeon stands
regarding me with an air
of slightly tried patience—
as if to say “I know
what I am going to say
will seem obvious.”  His glare
takes me into his confidence—
& he does speak: “I see
you are reading the TLS,
thinking about 19th century Parisian authors—
sitting here in Rome, an Australian
Go home!

Though where is home for you?
I myself am from Perugia,
& Arezzo.  Some years ago
I spoke to you there. 
Where has it got you, poetry?
I despair of you frankly.

Tho despair is not my point
or 'suit'.  (I wear it lightly.)
You will be gone:
I will stay—
in Rome, anyway."

(And, sotto voce:)
"That almond
you leave, on your table,
you’re leaving it?—it’s mine, ta.”
And with that he flew away.  (I
caught the plane out of Rome
later—but I had
always been going to go.)

Poem ("I do a drawing …")

I do a drawing
from a photograph

of Jimmy Rushing arriving in New York
—or Chicago : 

maybe that is the 'El'
going overhead. 

He looks great
in the photo

and okay in the drawing
so I spray the drawing with fixative

& think about
going into town

for a drink

this thing completed making
me suddenly feel good,

as good as Jimmy looks to feel in the photograph.

I put my watch on & take it off
(thongs too) 

& sit again at the desk
where a clipping George sent says: Otis Rush

backed by * the Hounds * live * at the Village Gate *
beside a small picture of Otis

looking pretty heavy, & pretty classy,
& dude-ish too.   A

high-contrast tone dropout
it stands against a small dish with paperclips

& buttons in it & a tiny artificial flower—
cream-yellow petals—

from Hazel's dress. 
There, too, beside a patch of

bright red on something is a large badge

that belonged to my paternal grandfather
it's cream, with a little shot of him on it

his ID, for his job
minding American ships

during WW II 

a nightwatchman 
he stares back balefully, looks like me,

though a tougher guy. 
He hated yanks. 

Yanks were who
he was tough to.
Though I heard a story

about diving into the water
to save a Swede
he'd punched out.

Tucker Bolton. 
I guess he'd lost some weight

by the time this photo was taken— 
the only one I have of him. 

He died soon after— in the war —a heart attack
getting up one night to go & mind the wharves

I never met him. 

He looks like me
on my last book of poems.

Between him & me
stands my father. 

I feel my features
merge back through his, my father's, to those of the man

on this badge—a mug shot, head & shoulders,
he stands in front of a grid of

heights, and is my height I can see, a shade
under the line that indicates 5 feet 9. 

His name is a line under him  Thomas B Bolton
& under this  April 14, 1943,  B. 

around the photo lots of USA initials, the
words Civilian Personnel, & his number

B 2431. 

I am Ken Bolton & live in Adelaide
a poet, heir
to the toughest man in Double Bay & Edgecliff
back then,

the father of my father.
Both of us violent.

In a way that never gets expressed—
even through violence.

I look at the tiny photograph.
1989.  From his eyes to mine

something I can identify with.