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Staying Whole While Falling Apart

Staying Whole While Falling Apart celebrates troubled all-rounder, Aaron Auslander, as he strives to find meaning and shape his identity in the midst of too many influences. Love and parenthood complicate matters, and Aaron has to find creative ways to rally and stay whole.

Gering artfully combines surreally black humour, arresting imagery, and tenderness to take the reader on a grand tour of the human landscape. The narrative roves from apartheid South Africa to the beach suburbs of Sydney, from the orange cliffs of the Blue Mountains to Nazi Europe. In precise and vivid language, the poems deliver fresh takes on life, at once quirky and bittersweet.

ISBN 9781922332608 (PB, 104pp);
140mm x 216mm
AUD $26 USD $18 NZD $28 GBP £12 EUR €14
ISBN 9781922332615 (eBook) AUD $13 USD $9 NZD $15 GBP £6 EUR €7


Staying Whole While Falling Apart is a playful yet serious exploration of loss and grief, of trying to find balance and stability amidst a giddying welter of experiences. You’ll laugh and cry with Aaron Auslander, a kind of everyman, as he tries to make sense of the flux and tumble of his life. The poetry is sharp and it cuts right to the bone, exposing the vulnerabilities and the precarious provisos under which we all can live. This is a potent book animated by courage and finely-honed craft.

– Judith Beveridge, Australian Poet

In Staying Whole While Falling Apart, a cycle of poems documenting the “finest failures” of one Aaron Auslander (foodie, divorcee, outdoorsman, self-analysing, self-medicating, dysfunctional dreamer), Gering has orchestrated a wry, deadpan fanfare for the common man. The result is by turns ruthlessly unsentimental and grimly funny, and as a whole, oddly moving. In searching for a comparison, the best I could come up with is Ted Hughes’ Crow. But where “Crow” is bleak and dismal, Gering’s anti-hero poems reach quixotically for the glowing heights of redemption.

– Peter Selgin, author of The Inventors and Duplicity

James Gering

James Gering, diarist, short story writer and poet, was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. He has lived in Australia for many decades. James was the Australian Society of Authors Emerging Poet of the Year, 2018, and his writing has been published in journals around the world. He teaches at The University of Sydney and lives in the pristine Blue Mountains. There he climbs the cliffs and explores the river canyons in search of Rilke’s solitude, Chekhov’s humility, and dreamscapes in general. James welcomes visitors at jamesgering.com.


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Pawns, 1978

Come Sundays, Aaron Auslander and his sister perched
on Dad’s armchair and watched him verse his friend in chess.
The men puffed on pipes, blue smoke curled above the board.

Dad played hide and seek with his children, mowed his soft
signature into the lawn, and built a path to the lookout,
where Aaron negotiated win-wins with the future.

Two police tapped on the front door. They palmed their caps,
bowed their heads. Aaron’s sister yelled – Wrong house,
wrong dad, ours home soon, macaroni cheese for dinner.

Aaron smashed the chess board on a rock, tossed the pieces
into the flower beds, hid in the jacaranda treehouse before
climbing out of its window and up to flimsier forks.

Mourners mingled on the terrace below, their grief rising –
talk of a careening truck hitting a vehicle
driven by a father replaced by a void.

Cliff Climbing – No Rope

If Aaron falls from the crux, he breaks a leg,
any higher and the grim reapers will be busy.
He manages the hard moves and commits to the arête.

Josie on the ground tells her lover one last time
to use a rope, like any sane man.
But why? His mind is clear, the sandstone soothing.

Nearing the summit, he stretches for a hold, misses
by a sliver, backs off and rests by alternating
his feet on a hold the size of a domino.

A tremor starts in one leg, and the reapers
get word. They arrive whooping,
pile out of the hearse, and prepare the undertaking.

Last time Aaron completed a solo, the black dog
backed off. Relieved, he craved sky-drenched love
with Josie. She recoiled and delivered her ultimatum.

Drops of sweat bead his temples. Death flirts with
his fingertips and licks the soles of his Sportivas.
Trees below appear tiny, Josie, too, not looking.

Must get the feet higher, Aaron whispers. The rock
exudes a gun-powdery warmth. His tremor eases,
the reapers curse. He executes the final moves

and collapses onto the summit slab of rock, arms wide,
imploring bliss. Nothing. He scans the void –
no Josie. Then he spots her – soloing the pathway out.