A- A A+

A cassowary in Tinbuctoo

1 Comment
Chris Wallace-Crabbe |  16 October 2016


Selected poems


Through the looking glass

Our dreams and mirrors meet in cousinhood.
Their language can't be quite the same as things
but each rejoices in some vividness,
the bright machinery of metaphor.

Since life can become as sad as All Get Out
some of us hoard dreams;
we love a looking-glass
which can be coaxed to flatter us to death,
just when changing in a trouser-shop.

Otherness takes all mickey out of the Real,
pretending to dismantle transience,
reassembling lots of splinters as pure form,
more delicious than hot buttered toast

or avocado. Thriving by similes
we look for likeness, parallels ... whatever.
The mirror reprimands me when I shave,
wrinkles and whiskers turning cousins, then.

So I turn back to rigorous aesthete,
reject the living world for, say, Vermeer;
yet when all the blinds have been pulled down
another me treks greenly through blue dreaming.




When I was a kid, I certainly knew
That a cassowary in Tinbuctoo
Was able to eat a missionary,
Cassock, bands and hymn-book, too.

Because it rhymed, it had to be true
But what on earth were those bands doing?
Nothing musical, I'll be bound,
And a cassock, what sort of jigger was that?

There's a famous library over there
All a-crumble, dry and falling into dust —
No, there are lots of facts, in fact,
Surviving the gloomy ills of history

On the site we now spell Timbuktu.
Famous for books in the olden days,
And culture continues to crumple there
Like everywhere else, but more.

The women? Beautiful and glorious,
Enamoured authorities gravely informed us,
Though the town has run short of salt
Every year or three.

So, there we have the golden city
With its miles of mellowed pise houses
Swayed under billowing fables, too.
What was it that I thought I knew?


Chris Wallace-CrabbeChris Wallace-Crabbe is an Australian poet and emeritus professor in the Australian Centre, University of Melbourne.



Comments should be short, respectful and on topic. Email is requested for identification purposes only.

Word Count: 0 (please limit to 200)

Submitted comments

Dear Chris, I enjoyed your poetry, but my version of the rhyme about Timbuctoo spoke of the missionary with his bible, prayer book and hymn book too!

Jean Sietzema-Dickson 22 October 2016

Similar articles

Oliver Stone's love letter to hero Edward Snowden

1 Comment
Tim Kroenert | 28 September 2016

Snowden's disclosures regarding the data-mining activities of the US government sparked a worldwide debate about security versus privacy that rages to this day. If his status as either a villain or a hero - a traitor, or the ultimate patriot - remains a matter of debate in some circles, you won't die wondering in which camp Oliver Stone sits. In Snowden the famously didactic filmmaker posits an utterly sympathetic portrait within the structure of a lithe and gripping political thriller.

Refugees returning home

Jena Woodhouse | 26 September 2016

Sudanese refugeesAcross the black hole of my solitude, the self-indulgent pit where I lick self-inflicted wounds, lightly step returning refugees. They know why they trek through forest, crossing rivers, day by day, on bruised and lacerated feet, in rain, on clay, on sharp-edged stones. For them there is no other way, and they are going home ... They have no doubt where they belong, the dying and the newly-born, no time to squander on regrets: they are going home ...

Refugee children process trauma through drama

1 Comment
Tim Kroenert | 21 September 2016

At a Sydney school, a group of teenage refugees come together to share their stories, first with each other, and then with their friends and families via a live theatrical performance. Treehouse Theatre is run by three dedicated teachers, who facilitate the sharing, and help transform the children's stories into scripts that can be performed. Their stories are yet another reminder of the human cost of conflict, and of policies that exclude and further traumatise those who are fleeing from it.

My life with dwarfism

Julie Guirgis | 22 September 2016

Julie Guiris baby photoBeing unique has its pros. It has made me a compassionate person able to see past the differences in people. And although I am a dwarf by birth I don't identify as that. Being the creative free-spirit that I am I have come to reject any labels put on me. I haven't let my medical condition define me; instead I have created my own identity. As the writer Helen Keller once said, 'Face your deficiencies and acknowledge them; but do not let them master you. Let them teach you patience, sweetness, insight.'

The sound of black

1 Comment
Kevin Gillam | 13 September 2016

Black shapesI understand the meaning of her silence but don't have a word for it so I scour night sky for a term for the sound of black between stars and moon and meteorites and planets and us and come up with 'evol' and write it down and then show it to her and she says 'is that the root of evolve like before stuff moves or morphs?' and I say 'no, it's love backwards' and she stares at me and says nothing