John Forbes

John Forbes Poems

A certain cast to their features marked
the English going into battle, & then, that

glint in the Frenchman’s eye meant ‘Folks

Death, you’re more successful than America,
even if we don’t choose to join you, we do.
I’ve just become aware of this conscription
where no one’s marble doesn’t come up;

The Greeks invented the dust cover only to
paint it / but we think of art as an alibi
& see through it. So now what’s around us
is no longer just what’s beyond the pencil

The Classical Head

Nature in her wisdom has formed the human head
so it stands at the very top of the body.

Spent tracer flecks Baghdad’s
bright video game sky

as I curl up with the war

Old father of the horrible bride whose
wedding cake has finally collapsed, you

spoke the truth that doesn’t set us free—

After breakfast in the Philippines
I take a bath
& it’s a total fucking gas

Enjoy the ice cream, Gerald,

there’s an end to sex
it’s like the alphabet but simpler
and for you, all there is
and for you too

Read about the Goliard Poets
so long dead & so like you—

sile philomela pro tempore

where are the bluebells
& the blank deck of cards

the children’s toys

it’s fun to take speed
& stay up all night
not writing those reams of poetry
just thinking about is bad for you

The dictionary definition of change
means your face looks different in the water
& even tho’ you’d feel at home down there
each moment spent at one remove, anywhere

like a dozing shark
or a very quiet limb
waiting for the lecture
to make it a star the

I often dream about the ocean
and would like to write
a long ode to water, because I live
on a drought stricken flood plain

American poets!
you have saved
America from
its reputation


dont bother telling me about the programs
describe what your set is like the casing the
curved screen its strip of white stillness like
beach sand at pools where the animals come

Raving against the space
where the poem sounds
like a revolving door that
makes the noise a car makes

Be still, my beating heart, & you, body
Don’t go banging into that tree—
The one the girl turned into, back
When the gods were like they are

Let’s paint the ideal supper on the back of
our heads where the poem is a type of hole
rope tricks and grit allow you to descend—

I wish we could be nicer
like the Americans

instead we are caught

John Forbes Biography

John Forbes was an Australian poet. Forbes was born in Melbourne, Australia, but during his childhood his family lived in northern Queensland, Malaya and New Guinea. He went to Sydney University and his circle of friends included the poets Robert Adamson, Martin Johnston, and John Tranter. It was at this time that the work of the American poets Ted Berrigan, John Ashbery and Frank O'Hara made a strong and lasting impression on him. He returned to live in Melbourne in the late 1980s, where he became the poetry editor of Scripsi. His friends around this time included the poets Gig Ryan, Laurie Duggan and Alan Wearne. Forbes died in Melbourne of a heart attack, aged 47.)

The Best Poem Of John Forbes

Anzac Day

A certain cast to their features marked
the English going into battle, & then, that

glint in the Frenchman’s eye meant ‘Folks
clear the room!’ The Turks knew death

would take them to a paradise of sex
Islam reserves for its warrior dead

& the Scots had their music. The Germans
worshipped the State & Death, so for them

the Maximschlacht was almost a sacrament.
Recruiting posters made the Irish soldier

look like a saint on a holy card, soppy & pious,
the way the Yanks go on about their dead.

Not so the Australians, unamused, unimpressed
they went over the top like men clocking on,

in this first full-scale industrial war.
Which is why Anzac Day continues to move us,

& grow, despite attempts to make it
a media event (left to them we’d attend

‘The Foxtel Dawn Service’). But The March is
proof we got at least one thing right, informal,

straggling & more cheerful than not, it’s
like a huge works or 8 Hour Day picnic—

if we still had works, or unions, that is.

John Forbes Comments

Perla 13 December 2017

You write great poems!

1 1 Reply

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