B N Oakman

B N Oakman, formerly an academic economist, started writing poetry in 2006. In 2006 he started offering poems to publishers. Subsequently his work has been widely published in magazines, journals and newspapers in Australia, the UK and the USA. He has since published many poems in Australia and overseas as well as a full-length book, In Defence of Hawaiian Shirts (IP, 2010) and two booklets, Chalk Dust (2009) and Secret Heart (2013), both with Mark Time Books. He was awarded a grant by the Literature Board of the Australia Council for 2009. His work is recorded on the ABC Classics CD, Peter Cundall Reads War Poetry and he reads his poetry at various events and festivals. His work has been nominated for The Pushcart Poetry Prize 2015 (USA). Second Thoughts is his second full-length collection. www.bnoakman.com


B N Oakman's website


You urge me. Go. Hasten to Spain.
Return to my heart’s desire. Heed
the fandango’s beat. Dwell not

on your capricious health. Tarry,
and be infirmity’s wall-flower.
‘I’ll still be here’, you say.

Imagine me, prowling the Prado,
knocking on Unamuno’s door
in Salamanca, catching whispers

of Lorca in Andalusia, resting
on Belchite’s abandoned stones,
wandering the maze and Mihrab

of Cordoba’s mosque, placing a palm
on pardon’s portal in Santiago,
pausing by graves only the brave

dared name, listening to Spaniards
talk politics in a taberna,
my book on a table, an empty chair,

bread gravel in my mouth, oil
rancid on my tongue, the wine
vinegar to unkissed lips.

A Note for My Daughter

for Penny

After I am ashes wait
until your tears have dried.
Choose a day when the wind blows hard
and take the urn (or box or bin)
to some convenient lofty site
(a handy rooftop will suffice) and there,
without ceremony, words or prayer
fling my dust into the flying air.

No declarative stones or lettered brass,
no rosy plot for ruminations,
but in gusts and zephyrs, puffs and squalls
you may remember me
and smile,
your every breath my name.

Look At My Eyes

Look at my eyes.
I’m dead behind these eyes.
– Archie Rice, eponymous character in John Osborne’s play The Entertainer (1957)

I know how Archie feels
after the fire’s gone out
easy to grab at pain killers
a few swigs of self-deceit
no trouble doing drugs
helpful doctors will oblige
or try DIY
no one will notice
you’ll still be moving and nodding
not a bother to anyone
after all you’re only dead inside

somebody taught me
pain is more lively than torpor
but there’s a price
you’ll be a bloody nuisance
a pest in the popularity quest
now look at my eyes
see anything burning
maybe smouldering
or is there a blaze
the flames dancing in the ruins

On Waking

I wake
each morning
to the curve
of your body
lips pressed
to the nape
of your neck
and wait
for the sun
to tint the room
with gold
and wonder
if such as you
lies here
how shall I
ever know
I’m old?

Metro Antonio Machado

Garcia Lorca’s name graces an airport
while the poet of dreams, remembered

landscapes, diviner of Castile’s flinty soul,
fuser of outer and inner, dignifies

a metro station on Linea 7, steel rails
joining Pitis to Hospital de Henares.

Machado is not the ideal poet to counsel
straying travellers to ‘get back on track’.

Wayfarer, your footsteps/are the road,
and nothing more./Wayfarer, there is
no road,/the road is made by walking.

But five correspondencias permit us
to deviate, perhaps emerge somewhere

unintended, and Don Antonio, reader
of Freud, will encourage wanderers

to follow their footsteps, explore
subterranean darkness, descend deep

beneath the teeming surface of Madrid.

In Defence of Hawaiian Shirts

Too many uniforms mean a country’s turning dangerous,
that’s what I thought as I watched Triumph of the Will 1 –
masses of Germans marching (in step)
kitted out in matching threads and shod with leather boots (named Jack)
and the film’s star is The Führer (he of curt salutes and silly poses)
who shouts a lot about the rules for partying with his tidy mob.

And today it frightens me nobody simply works a job,
they are members of a team and trussed
in corporate garb for fish shops, planes and pubs and banks
and embroidered with their masters’ names – even those
who drive a taxi are buttoned in a company shirt
(with insignia, epaulets and badge)
and every one of them commands that I enjoy my bloody day.

So it’s with some fondness I remember
(and I don’t believe I’ve made this up)
being served one cold July (in Customs) by a silent splendid clerk
who wore a loud Hawaiian shirt
where the waves were blue and the sands were gold
and lithe brown girls in grassy skirts
with hibiscus flowers in their raven hair
swayed beneath his printed palms and shimmered with Alohas.

1 Triumph des Willens, Germany, 1934, dir. Leni Riefenstahl, b&w, 114mins.

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