Beachhead

  Guy Peppin Beachhead 2013. Screen-print on paper (150 × 100 cm each.)

 

Guy Peppin Beachhead 2013. Screen-print on paper (150 × 100 cm each.)


Author’s Note: Beachhead is a poem that grew on the back-burner for me for around three years. I would add to it, remove, and edit, and then meld it in short bursts whenever I had time between writing short pieces, and my other activities as an artist and educator. The impulse to write the poem first occurred after watching the film Gallipoli (1981), an Australian classic written by David Williamson, and directed by Peter Weir, which I had seen as a young student, as many Australians do. I was inspired to write a piece that honoured the sacrifices of so brave young men sent to slaughter by the empire, and also the Australian obsession with what is a minor episode in the First World War. Due to the sensitivity of the subject matter I was reluctant to consider it as a finished work until I had edited it for a long time, and refined it a great deal. Unlike Britain, Australia does not have a tradition of queer war Poetry. I wanted to work with ideas of love, lust, friendship, honour, shame, fear, bravery and cowardice, happiness and sorrow. A meditation on death and loss.

 


 

Beachhead



Soldier soldier
another country
has stars,
a thin red margin,
a razor ridge,
another country
has another
big Homeric nowhere,
of bands
a breaking cove,
of stars
from mountains
to sea
stretching
into the sky,
above,
are all indifferent
pinholes, 
our masters
entrench,
to delight, 
Allah'a Hamd, 
oh stars, 
our transports
of hope
burn-out.

 

Soldier,
Soldier,
one more war,

what would Homer say?
in letters from the front?
How lofty?
how glorious?
“We have been
given
the deeds of war.”

War Always
Fools All

Hearts
drumming
us into
the fight

Poetry
is fading
here,
no more gods
to form
the seas,
or dusty skies.

I
cannot ever call
this
hearth-less tent
a home,
each is his own island
of grief,
but nobody can stay
in Eden
when we’re all so
heaven-bent,
on storming into hell.

A boy
can become a man here,
and a man
can become a myth,
in the madness
of a day.

This is
my equal share
of hell on earth,
all of us
all ravaged,
all damned,
and then
there’s
this wind
it does not blow,
it sucks,
and every-day,
is like a game.
every-day,
a funeral games,
for the good,
the unknown,
and all
the very best of us -
the gentle,
and the brave.

If I looked
a god in the eye,
and said
their true name,
for wrath,
I wouldn’t mind.

 

Turkish Phrases (i)

Yes. Evet. 
No. Hay'r.

This way. Bu şekilde.

Put your hands in the air! 
Ellerini havaya koy!

Wash my clothes. 
Elbiselerimi y'kay'n.
This Man has stolen from me!
Bu adam benden çald'!

Do you serve alcohol?
E?er alkol servisi musunuz?

Bring me drink. 
Bana içki getirin.

How much is this woman? 
Bu kad'n ne kadar?

No, I do not want a boy.
Hay'r ben bir erkek istemiyorum.


It’s hardly beach weather.
With all the lovers
torn to shreds
and thrown
onto the waters.

All scorched,
all leaded down,
another spitting shower,
falls upon us,
down,
as precise as the sky,
storms

are catching,
every gnarled extremity,
is savoured
as a cover,
horses
dance to thunder,
as noise
sets fire to the rain.

Rat-a-tat,
rat-a-tat,
and -
another backslide,
hurls me down,
to sudden spoon,
we're snug
as guns,
thirsty
on blotting earth.

 

Chaplin,
why are you here?
Do you want
to fix, save,
or f*** me?
Put away your book.
I will not be born.
You mistake
the ache for romance
inside those
f***ed into numbness
by men
with no idea
how,
for something else.

We don't
write letters anymore,
we don't
talk about love,
we get drunk
and
try to fuck.

And know:
I took
Jesus in the garden,
and I
was made Holy,
laid-up
underneath all
that Popes disdain.

You enter me,
and words
escape my fingers,
as sighs
escape my lips.


The Bible
mentions us too,
you know;
In watery translations
about David,
and Jonathan’s beauty,
remember well -
whilst young,
but only sparingly,
and keep camp,
or behind,
hidden deep
in other's secrets.

 

Where am I -
among
the shifting shades,
and sights
of morning air?
Invisibly bright,
blind to all,
where is this place?

Where am I?
Here,
all-around me
youth exists
unknowingly ablaze,
transgression endures.
I write,
with
an unexploded mind
with
a virtuous pagan’s
hunger and thirst,
all nights,
after a day,
of sun on flesh,
and dutiful violence.

You Generals
you put
the modern finger
to everything,
daily
you find,
new ways
to curse,
be cursed.

You scatter
our fragments
your orders
are
slavery and death,
and
all arguments
are
a virtuosic waste.

The living never listen,
the dead never learn.

But,
the nights
here
are more honest
without
the searing truths
of day,
just
starving kisses
seek
patriotic flesh,
seeking flesh.

What is our future?

These are good boys
and their captain
posts
his sentinels
as ordered,
and writes letters
home,
and puts-in
a good word
now-and-then.

Red is the future.

I'm not a good soldier,
or a good poet,
But,
I'm an officer,
(a master of the cursed)
(a mistress of the despoiled)
all dammed,
but,
with privileges.

The worst part
of fear,
is that
it's like the sea.
It shocks your nuts,
it licks-up at your chest,
over your shoulders
in a cold battering,
a rise of unrest,
beads my skin,
in salty drops
and holds,
at the hairs at
the back of my head.

I make a wish
each time
one favourite passes:
That things will be
okay for him,
for me,
for us,
for them,
for everyone.

 

Bleached
in fatigues,
they cast-off
their salt shirts
to coltish horseplay,
too old
to believe in magic,
too young
to fear death,
but they believe,
and fear,
and hope
for a miracle,
glaring
back narrowly
at my gaze
the thin superiority
of the pure.

They flick butts
at the standing weeds,
amongst
all the bitter fruits
of this season's
brass harvest,
the wire-dry grasses
and bone chips
and rust,
that punctuate
the between
of here
and there,
all dancing
waving
and pointing
the way–up.

Shirtless
farm-boys run
rugby
to the sands,
their mad-dog
Cairo tans
deepening in
the noonday sun,
from tea,
to coffee,
to me,
they trot,
and dart,
and lunge,
they,
perfect machines,
shirts vs. skins,
vs. skin.
avoiding
each-other's dust.
I want/need to see
their biceps,
stretching
down,
like ropes,
like hope,
down,
into,
and out of,
all this,
All this.
damn.
mad.
s***.
their
lanky charms
are wrong
in every right way,
my
want looks,
whilst need,
scratches hungrily,
sticky to the ribs
under stinking khaki,
smoke,
and sweat,
and longing.

I squint
under my hat,
under the noon bonfire,
I watch
a tanned baker's
chest and shoulders
next to
a ploughman’s thighs,
their self-conscious
grace
hovering in the heat
between
their sleek convergences,
a miracle - like yeast,
and
far more
than daily bread. 

I look through them,
I pretend,
the risk of a moment
could change everything,
...a smoke,
a smouldering,
a shouldering hand,
lingering,
more than a moment.
Could change it all.

 

Leave.
Clean and dirty,
amongst the leather,
soap and sweat,
tobacco,
rubbing alcohol,
and playful snapping
of wet towels,
they comb
their damp hair
at the chipped glass,
comforted,
and uncomfortable
by the proximity
of flesh.

Tonight
if you squint
there are soldiers
under a tent,
almost dancing,
soldier-soldier,
laughing
the crackling music
hovering,
edging around,
with scuffed boots
that tap-up the dust,
waiting always
for a turn,
but,
I won't dance
If I can't dance
with you,

we eye
each-other-off,
and sometimes,
please,
yes,
a look,
says
meet me
in the bramble,
where promises,
fall-off,
frogs,
and snails,
and tails.


The heart
has all it's reasons,
they are sordid,
and beautiful
growing
in all the barren places
where men
gather to release
their hard
and smothered lust,
these places
are cursed
and blessed,
hard or soft,
lonely,
and armed
with sweetness,
around
any dark periphery,
where
the only glow is desire,
and excused,
just like at school -
you try not to push-back,
pressing
into that tender
dark confusion
of a wet kiss
and the soft grip
of his mouth
pressed on your neck,
and the jangle
of buckles
and buttons
the music
of temporary love.

Sleep can wait,
once
your heats up,
when
you've pulled him
down.

Before we start,
muffled,
by the glow of canvas,
sliding
known
anonymous tongues
into
each-others
starving mouths
because
we don’t want words,
and no names,
please,
because,
kisses are hunger;
no explanations,
no promises,
no tomorrow.

Just that sharp,
stab
on the first,
jab
as they
are grabbing,
stiff and numb,
well -
(as they say)
a handful of soldier
is better
than
a mouthful of arguments.


This
is not courage,
this,
is trying to hold you,
this,
inside me,
this,
one moment more.

This,
is not courage,
this
is honour,
this,
is trying
to hold the night.

When we disagree,
we are two cities,
two states,
and
I can’t move,
I wait,
my flags swing,
against the wind
here
heaven is hotter
than hell
I’m all spilt,
broken,
blown-out,
by bombs,
dug-out
with spades,
sand-bag buried,
burning
in my box-springs,
I can’t move,
mosquitos
raid my skies,
above
the no-man's land
between us.

Where are you here?
The bullet
of your beauty

has slain me!

Is it also raining
where you lie?

Are you completely
as blasted
as I?
Are you lying-low,
amidst my attacks,
twisted stiff
on damaged tracks,
whipped into
a shrapnel dandelion?

We were on
the General Staff
(we were never very smart)

I was Elgar,
you were Wagner,
(I the strings)
(you the brass)

Our.
Hearts.
              Are.
              A.
                            Drum.
                                          Beat.

Mata Hari dances
(only for me)
all your spies
betray you,
to mine,
everything
is for sale,
Munich
for the Moon.

The morning sky
awaits us,
hard
like your words,
too heavy and fast,
and tied
to balloons,
waiting-room fists

are thrust,
into platform pockets,
waiting
for al our lovers,
our men,
clutching letters
or filthy,
spilt, broken,
poems
with crumbling
line-breaks.

Song:
We are just mates,
we never surrender,
and,
never surrender,
because, because...

You
are my mate,
and we struggle
with each other,
in prisons
of our making,
you are,
my other country,
and fighting
with you,
for you,
for 30 days,
and nights,
from swearing,
to sweating,
and killing,
to civil cradling
and peace,
hostage,
body
and soul,
living only
when,
for one
blind moment,
the big death,
and the little one,
dance together
chest to chest,
stomach to stomach,
soldier to soldier,
private to privates,
the same rules
of engagement,
here,
all sharpened senses,
and
the subtle syntax
of lust,
all pushed
and beautiful,
the ecstasy
of your displacement
sucking
at the pistons
of my heart.
afterwards,
I sleep like a top.

 

I'm sure
I've not been mad,
but
I have been
shamed,
for wanting
what I need,
it is
a kind of madness, 
but,
I hope
it's a lie,
that won't survive
the century,
ever against
what
our bodies do,
and
with whom,
but,
still,
if all lovers
must be fighters,
what more
can we suffer?
among here,
for Empire?

I don't
want to die,
here,
broken,
I want to die
old,
home,
in your arms,
on your lips,
my last words,
must be
a lover's sighs,
between
the cradle
of your thighs

And that river,
by our river,
ill meet you,
round the bend,
where hearts can heal,
and souls can mend.

 

Turkish Phrases (ii)

I don't understand. Anlam'yorum.
I can't speak Turkish [well].
Türkçe konuşam'yorum.

Do you speak English?
'ngilizce biliyor musunuz?

Is there someone here who speaks English?

Burada 'ngilizce konuşan birisi var m??

Don't shoot! Ateş etmeyin!

I am an Australian/British/Canadian soldier.

Ben bir Avustralya/Ingiliz/Kanada askerim.
I want to speak to your superior.

Amirinizle konuşmak istiyorum.

I am in Pain! Ben A'r? duyuyorum!
I need a doctor. Bir doktora ihtiyac'm var.



Slipping
into cool waters,
I unlock,
I allow
weightlessness
to course,
through
my untouched aches,
limbs in the sea,
from the sea,
back to the sea.
I close
my eyes
and allow
undercurrents
and pulls,

to take me away,
I listen to water
surging through boys,
away,
from your loss
and nonchalance,
and,
slipping,
relaxing,
I wish,
I could
forget to breathe.
Under
cerulean ripples,
current-worn,
sun-warmed sand
under my,
thighs
free-falling with
every piece of myself
enveloped
within
excitatory kisses
from thousands of lips,
lingering
on my arms,
or neck,
flanks,
buttocks,
letting the sea,
drag me out
further,
to make love
to me
under-water.

I want to sink
into you,
into your torso,
drown
in you
and meld with
your currents,
my body
dashed
upon your reef,
with salt
and sand,
and the crisp
salient scent
of your sea,
surrounding everything
I hold here for you,

because of you,
in spite of you,
inside of you,
to lose myself,
with my head,
underwater
struggling for nothing,
more,
than to drown faster.


Drop guard,
swallow the moon,
chase away the night,
with cheeks,
so I, can have
sunshine
on my shoulders,
tomorrow,
wade further
than deep.
brown belt
across my heart,
smoke obscures promise
and hope,

so you draw
a line,
and everything’s fine.

Empire:
I jammed my flag

                  into your shores,

and raised my leg

                  against your tree,

and let my heart draw

                  it’s name across yours.

I raised my colours
                  and said, This here is mine,

landed my supplies
                  and fully aim to make
this new land mine,
                  stating my claim
for no kings or presidents,
                  but me.
Utopias flooding my head.


Courage
is that angel,
that makes
the difference
between,
a good life
and
a great life.

Friends,
we have
our saints
who sing for us.
Mates,
you are
the new angels.
that make me
fight another day.

Prayer:
Who is this man
in stretched pants
on wood?

and all
that you are
and the way
your hips

move
when you twist
in your underwear.
He needs
love and affection,
he needs;
and more importantly,
attention;
this yearning for
all you
have been waiting
to pull-out
of your pocket
and give to another.
Give yourself-up
to this boy
fill his needs,
as he fills yours,
whisper
words across him,
in dreams
and get your hopes-up.
Love this boy,
and remember,
what it is to
touch another’s soul.

 

I've never
seen a smiling face
that wasn't beautiful.

These eyes
are for sale,
these legs
are for flight,

these fists
are for fight,
these lips
are for kissing,

this ass
is for pass,
this cock
is for pluck,

this blood
is for flood,
this skin
is for sin.

But,
let me live,
leave me
long enough,
to let me slide
my hands
underneath
your shirt.

You
like the beach,
I
like the night,
and
like gods of war,
we
lay waste to time.

Just Sex,
that means less,
and holding
each other tight,
after you ride him
to release;


Sex,
he’ll cry
as he unloads
his burdens
deep inside you
where
they'll be safe
and warm.


Sex,
Soldier,
so paint-me-up
with a whore’s red,
fuck-me-up,
don't ask, don't tell,
don't stop.


Sex,
I’m asking for
bruised hips
and trouble walking
tomorrow.

Sex,
Choose
white sheets,
like a wedding dress,
after
lonely blanket shrouds.

Sand-bagged,
against the dawn
there's
a glimpse
of a scarecrow
toppled,
graceless
on the wires,
all twisted leg
and bloodied hair,
bowed
in mumbled
silent prayer,
all benediction
grim and cruel.
again,
the whistling chain
shrieks-us-up.


Tonight
I want home,
too,
when the moon
is one,
and the stars
have only gums. 
i'll follow
the wire,
down,
under,
so,
that every time-zone,
it will always be
that blue hour
in which
I loved you.

Red is the present.

He,
is torn-through,
kneeling
in the dust,
I dress his wound,
pressing into the flow,
but red keeps
seeping through,
my fingers
slick with blood,
his blood,
young blood,
blood, like mine,
Europe's blood,
Empire's blood,
World's blood.
I spoke
to him softly
and myself,
in the tongue
of patient endings,
his face
made ugly by the pain.
No angels
came to bear him-up,
this boy,
these men,
so many men,
they are
too much to bear.


Muffled marching
in the street,
marmoreal,
muffled sobbing,
North,
to the West,
East, South,
hemispheres
jarred,
beyond stinking piety,
there's
absence in the throat,
bread,
salt, thick sliced silence,
poppies,
nod to memory,
heavy bunched as medals,
and
old laurels
resting in the throat.