John Tranter

Four Poems


Punish me with jugs of honey
Tie me down with bramble twine,
Stuff my mouth with wads of money—
      Please be mine.
Kick me with your winklepickers,
Gag me with your wrinkled knickers,
Make me lick your brutal shoe:
      Love me do.
Garnish me with couch and fescue,
Dress me in an acid dressing,
Telegram your roughest blessing,
Be my howling search and rescue—
When I'm lost and all alone,
      Take me home.


A, tint of ash, pastel grey
And pale amber flakes, E, a feast
Of emerald ice-blocks at the break of day
When blood and gold tincture the mystic East.
I, less an order, more a hint
Of Eau de Nil, flavours the local square
Where cobblestones hacked from the local flint
Bear a skin of ice that dazzles the air.
O for a beaker full of the warm South
Where tourists faint in the sticky Roman heat
And U offer purple promises of love
To be exchanged the next time we meet.
Qantas perfects its algorithm for seat yield;
a truck dumps rakes and shovels onto a field.


A, blue gloves made of Nitrile,
Tougher than the usual kitchen kit.
Princess E for Egotism, her tight smile,
Migraine and 'glass empty' gloom fit.
I for Ivy League, dark green
And gold ribbon, chaps training
To be chaps, clearly heard, hardly seen,
O for Oblique Orange, windy, raining
In the city U plan to visit soon.
The train screeches to a halt, of course.
Check the coloured files. It's a thrill
To see the pairing: bride marries groom.
A trader suicides, in the Bourse.
Throw away the gloves. Take your pill.


A, hot pink, babies angry when kissed,
gummy smile clenching to a scowl,
E, snow blessing the street, a lisped vowel
hiding midnight's infidelities, the wife pissed,
smile (angelic) changing to grimace (foul),
faint flutter of pulse at the wrist
as the Grim Reaper calls with his damned list.
I, sallow salmon, time to throw in the towel
and get outta here. O, tropical jungle green,
U, blue, lavender, dizzy aquamarine—
padding from the pool, dripping wet, past
croaking frogs, pythons, hamburger joints
covered in vines, then a sign in Chinese that points
to the busy city—lights, people—home at last.

JOHN TRANTER's two latest books, Urban Myths: 210 Poems: New and Selected and Starlight: 150 Poems have together won six major Australian awards. He received a Doctorate of Creative Arts from the University of Wollongong and is an Honorary Associate in the University of Sydney School of Letters, Arts and Media and an Honorary Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities. He has given more than a hundred readings and talks in various cities around the world, has published more than twenty collections of verse, and has edited six anthologies. He founded the free Internet magazine Jacket in 1997 and granted it to the University of Pennsylvania in 2010. He is the founder of the Australian Poetry Library which publishes over 40,000 Australian poems online. He has a Journal at and a vast homepage at