Tuesday 23 March 2021

Two Poems by Stephen House


my before


i find the courage and go to the place of my before

breathe deep as i cross industrial wastelands

as smoky grit envelopes me

blizzards spew trauma in my mouth and eyes

and speeding desperados calling mean

hurl toxic glares in my anxious path


i pass naked seekers gathered at dark tunnels

gesturing me back in to game the play

ignore lurking leering ghosts who spin at me in dancing need

i flee from where i dwelt in trap but now leave near behind


he is sitting in an empty shrine outside a shut-down city

on his garbage-strewn way

footpath couch beside him

smoking magic and sipping on a warm can of lust

engrossed in watching a scrawny creature

picking through an overflowing bin


i sit next to him

“i came back to see you” i whisper

he offers me a puff of green as i shake head in no

“i need to ask you why you never tried to save me

why it was left to me to escape the nowhere hole

to see if any strength to run remained

to discover that absent will-power i could never gather up

to know if i was more than me and the pain i sucked in daily

i want to know why you didn’t show me what and who i was”


he stands and paces

bangs his hand on burning prayer graffiti walls

“stop avoiding true and tell me why” i shout in crying plead

he ends his racket and slumps to ground


we watch the creature rip apart a wasted body it’s dragged from the bin

eyes glazed as greedy mouth gulps expired life

slimy blood of dreams spilling over all that never flowered 

he looks into my face and i sense a sadness so real

i see someone i have never seen before

“i don’t know why i didn’t give you how and when you were” he mutters

as the creature skulks away with remains dribbling fearful trail


i stand and look up to a smiling just realised sky

and stepping gently away from where i never began

i say goodbye to my before and fly away

as he fades screaming into nothing now remains



nomad-halt shock


we were stopped in a rush from our travelling way

nomad-halt hit us hard in a month

ripped into our wandering on lifestyles

of where we chose to call home as our next


us thousands who take off to ramble ongoing

never ceasing the let’s head to elsewhere

expats and roamers and dreamers of different

artists and explorers and outlaws


advantaged or wealthy you must be they all say

nowhere tribes have heard it spat frequent 

lucky you on your permanent holiday

it’s alright for some they whine bitter


but for many of us our freedom is loaded

with consequence and outcome from amble

poverty often be stuck on tough lonely road

nomads smile at what only we share


when nomad-halt swept our cruising away

as it did for more than is recorded

we returned to our birth towns to wait out pandemic

reflect on what could follow from here


and for me and i can’t say what others are thinking

i appreciate my home safety and health

but i’m sad for my brothers and sisters in countries

where death and sickness is part of their day


vaccination the roll-out is the news of this time

and it seems the prediction of a coming new normal

but we full-time nomads caught by nomad-halt shock

know our drifting days as they were have vanished


it’s not that the borders won’t ever be open

or restriction to take off will be always

its more that the ease to be the nomads we were

has been changed by what’s been and still hovers


Stephen House is an award winning Australian playwright, poet and actor. He’s won two Awgie Awards (Australian Writer’s Guild) , Adelaide Fringe Award, Rhonda Jancovich Poetry Award for Social Justice, Goolwa Poetry Cup, Feast Short Story Prize and more. He’s been shortlisted for Lane Cove Literary Award, Overland’s Fair Australia Fiction Prize, Patrick White Playwright and Queensland Premier Drama Awards, Greenroom best actor Award and more. He’s received Australia Council literature residencies to Ireland and Canada, and an India Asialink. His chapbook “real and unreal” was published by ICOE Press Australia. He is published often and performs his work widely.

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