blackmail press 34
Nathanael O'Reilly

spirits of the forest  Vanya Taule'alo
Nathanael O’Reilly was born in Warrnambool and raised in Ballarat, Brisbane and Shepparton. He now resides in Texas. He is the author of two chapbooks, "Suburban Exile: American Poems" (2011) and "Symptoms of Homesickness" (2010), both published by Picaro Press, and a recipient of an Emerging Writers Grant from the Literature Board of the Australia Council. His poetry has been published in journals around the world, including Antipodes, Cordite Poetry Review, LiNQ, Blackmail Press, Harvest, Transnational Literature, Mascara Literary Review, Windmills, Postcolonial Text, Prosopisia, Page Seventeen, Red River Review, Correspondances Oceaniennes and Social Alternatives.
Student Winters

Cold, damp afternoons spent
in weatherboard houses
huddled beside heaters
sipping Nescafe Blend
Forty-Three seemed to drag
on forever then end

with a sudden sunset

Streetlights slowly flickered
to life in the darkness
beyond the verandahs
as we rugged up then set
off down the street to buy
fish and chips for dinner

The Keating Years

Autumn afternoons browsing in op shops
followed by cappuccinos and coffee scrolls
were the only luxuries we could afford
scraping by on Austudy in a “regional city”
during the Keating years. We lived
in damp ninety-year-old weatherboard
houses shared with uni friends,
ate pasta, porridge and potatoes,
drank five-dollar port and cheap cask wine.
We walked everywhere and took the bus
to campus; we didn’t own cars and our parents
were the only people we knew with jobs.
Splurging meant spending ten bucks
on pots of VB at the pub, trying our luck
at a club after midnight and sharing a taxi
with mates instead of walking home.
Our economic reality taught us not to hope
for a better future. We knew the recession
we had to have meant our degrees qualified
us for nothing but the back of the dole queue.

Islington Dawn

On the cold, hard floor of a damp flat
in Islington borrowed from friends
for the weekend, we fumbled before
dawn with each other’s bodies under
a well-travelled army surplus blanket.
Two antipodeans drawn together
by a common culture in the foreign
capital of a decomposing empire,
we sought comfort and pleasure
under and amidst omnipresent grey.
Her usually-poised ballerina body
graceless while prone; my pale frame,
scarred by rugby and southern sun,
awkward and furtive with desire.
Hours after dawn, we sat together
on a vandalized bench in the courtyard,
looking in vain through the grey
morning drizzle for a way forward.


Lying on the floor
of a friend’s room
before dawn in Whitley College
listening to The Cure’s “Sinking”
after drinking and talking
all night about sex and religion
I felt my body disintegrating
slowly oozing through the carpet
down through the concrete
and dropping pleasantly
into the room below
as I meandered in and out
of consciousness
knowing I had nowhere
I had to go and nothing
I had to be after sunrise