Name: S.K. Kelen
country : Australia
bio: S. K. Kelen's poems have been appearing in journals, newspapers and on radio since 1973 when he won the Poetry Australia Farmers Poetry Prize for Australians under 18.  Kelen teaches creative writing and poetry and lives mostly in Canberra. In 1996 Kelen was Visiting Professor of Writing at the University of South Dakota; in 1998 he was Asialink Writer-in-residence in Vietnam; and was the recipient of the ACT Chief Minister's Creative Arts Fellowship for 2000 and the 2001 Capital Arts Patrons Award. S. K. Kelen's published books include: Atomic Ballet, (Hale & Iremonger, 1991), Dingo Sky, (HarperCollins/Angus&Robertson, 1993), Trans-Sumatran Highway and other poems, (Polonius, 1995), Dragon Rising, (The Gioi, 1998), Shimmerings, (Five Islands Press, 2000), Goddess of Mercy, (Brandl & Schlesinger, 2002). Shimmerings was shortlisted for the 2002 SA Festival Awards. Goddess of Mercy was shortlisted for the Age Poetry Book of the Year, Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards, and received a special commendation for the ACT Book of the Year Award. He is currently living on an Australia Council Grant writing new poems and completing his PhD.

Jo !
Bon Voyage

Atop the suburb’s ‘mountain’, really a hill
just ragged bush almost the last place in the city
one can be alone with sky and the trees.
The wind blows grass seeds,  dust and insects
in no direction—cracks the big branches and down
they come to embrace gravity.  See danger—
it’s better you talk to kangaroo, cockatoo
& any spirit who could be bothered  travelling
here to this cold hill.  As the clouds wrap around
hear Dad softly saying goodbye
he’s leaving on the next flight up, up,
up, and up, another true life adventure
what is there at the end or ever
space,  light and air? A man who never
said never, made life look like an exercise
in style touring the twentieth century
ah Dad travel well those heavenly climes
hot or very warm I’d bet and don’t forget
to write & charm the clouds, the stars,
time goes from here to forever.
Words after the last words.


Reality Check


Zeus handed Troy’s smoking altars to the Greeks
A burnt offering to human passion and cruelty.
Believe the stuff about Helen’s beauty
Launching a thousand ships. Those kids
Were doing it for kicks and the money.


The wind plays upon Apollo’s lyre: drunk
Satyr strutting under the Milky Way
Strums an air guitar, has a great day.


Toxin Baby

Say the words you thought
the power was in the books
a prayer to avert bad—
nuclear leak in this place—
that place—chemical spill in a river
reactors glow under the polar ice
we’ve sprung a leak
damn radiation whorl—
toxin whirling emission

cloud stuff of extinction
the land coughs smog—
an end-of-the-world volcano
any old man monkey can tell you
not lightning sword and shield
no cool mist will stop
the forests crinkling.



It’s cool listening to Miles Davis trumpet
playing ‘Bye, bye Blackbird’ on that great
. . .Classic Ballads cd though I know
outside the world is really suffering
oozing with all the bad things humans made
and made work, we as a species sacrificed
a blue planet and walk through a toxic soup
—the System made Creation invisible—
demonic thoughts occur a thousand times a day
a thousand days a year madness is factored into the way
we live, the way work is the greatest drug
the way things are is the way things have always been—
because humans are a kind of bug the traffic spins—
get out of the car and put your hands up
come on down, come on down o lucky ones
consume, be silent, die but Miles plays trumpet so beautifully
he’s an angel now and wow jazz that’s cool and hot
happy and sad draws the world’s poison out
like sucking a snake bite now the earth is sweet again
a breeze blows the leaves in the mind’s blossom trees—
that’s the trick a stereo can play, turn it up loud
there’s no traffic no other sound &
the death work brings to the day is not invited.


Interrupt this Program (Liberty Lotus)

Of badly behaved humans and pallid dust—
Split screen shows tall buildings in New York
Make good targets for aeroplanes
And the Pentagon burns like any other place.
Screen cuts to FBI files, witnesses, the flimsy
Evidence (a flight manual in Arabic)
And the President informed seems stunned
Though eerily unsurprised.  The two gleaming
Towers collapse again in slow motion.
“The first time an event of such magnitude has
Been broadcast using entirely digital technology”
A savvy CNN anchor comments & 
Afghanistan’s back on the US radar.
Special effects have improved since the Gulf War
Events can be more easily edited and enhanced
eg an instant retrospective beautifully
Counterpoints Osama’s calculated obsessiveness
With a New York fireman’s utter decency.
Terror moves fleshing out its agenda. 
A talking head asked ‘How do we process our anger?’
Now’s not the time to ask who armed and trained the zealots
And why there always has to be an enemy?
Who helped destroy Afghanistan—
Why in some places peace can only mean sleep or death.
When do land mines come home to roost?
To whom do we address our regrets?
Or remember Hiroshima set the standard
For breaking glass and Nagasaki was signed
Off to test another kind of atom bomb
Well, one nuke would have been enough
How terror burned for years in Vietnam
To satisfy unquenchable domestic thirst for fire.  Evil
Pure and simple rained on the Vietnamese people.
The Vietnamese might forgive yet cannot forget
Quite as easily as we can.  They say no more war
Plant forests where the napalm burned.


Imperial Vampire

Machines were hungry
A blood stain spread round the world
A cruel spirit fed on carnage and murder
Found many willing to deliver a smorgasbord
Of tribes, cities, nations, people. 
Islands and islands.
So different yet so much the same
Brimming with the gift of life
Whose names were as beautiful as their lives
Had been: Shoshone (a breeze), Eora (a star)
The cruel spirit saw fresh flesh
A rhapsody of innocence, well near enough
And the spirit called to the pioneers
Come massacre and do your deeds—
Hate-folk come out of the woodwork
Duty-takers do the dirty work.
And in return is granted a piece of the earth,
Commerce.  Beach heads.  Thirsty tentacles
Spread, prime the land for civilising.
Shoot and shoot and shoot until sadness is forgotten.
War and colonisation kept the vampire fed
So much blood to shed and so many cultures
To a vampire they all taste great.  Just yesterday
Yankees offered up sweet rice blood
Perfected a recipe for consommé Indochine
But it all got a little overdone (napalm)
Village cooked too long on a turning spit
When the bombers left the feast was done and
For dessert rapture Cambodia Year One!
You humans are too kind.  Who could fail to
Appreciate the delicious irony Sub-Sahara
Cooking and chewing those skinny bones. 
Jihad heroes knock on Heaven’s door
They’re jumping in a salad bowl.
And what a lolly shop Europe’s always been
A taste of ‘ethnic tensions’ keeps the blood
Running for years like Russia who’s always been so
Selfless with her sufferings.  Mass production perfected
At the Belsen factory now kids scream a Balkan mess
The cutlery’s kept clean by all that ethnic cleanliness.
Eating’s just fine in Palestine and there’s still
A drink to be had in Ireland.   A quick snack
Grabbed in Iraq.  Where next to eat?
There’s a road toll.  And the rest.


Attitude: Don Juan in the Shopping Mall

Let us fly to bounty land. . .Aqua


Today’s Don Juan could be any of a million characters:
Mohammed Hatim a wayward son of the Mujahadeen
Doan Huan sporting a Da Nang pedigree, or Mario
Lanza living out a serious fetish for muscle cars, Jim Giakos
Many moons from the post office in Kiama and they
All love soccer—true—choose one or make your own character
Whatever,his forebears came by boat from somewhere
Migrants—survivors—refugees—settlers safely


Tucked in bed ashore the island of shopping malls
Now these families call Fortress Australia home.
Click an ethnic option.  Call him Juan keep it simple
Who wants to be a millionaire? Our hero had an inkling
His place on the great wheel of fire—reincarnated
By a poem,   a poem reincarnated!  Now wherever migrants
And natives gather, there’ll be Don Juan.  Or movies
or poems like this one with Don Juan hanging around. 


Time for the shipwreck—a starfish on bleached coral.
Big island like Australia has plenty of coastal treachery
Juan’s boat hit a storm before he was even born.
Back home families and traditions were trampled in dust
Those who got out brought memories of homelands
Turned nasty: torture, hunger, every day some
Bad news, ruins, guns and weeping. The world
Turns its back.  That’s the modern shipwreck.


Juan’s parents made it ashore and found an island
Of peaceful streets and shopping malls, paradise where all
Comers are welcome and there’s nothing between people
But a bond called mateship and the spirit of the ‘fair go’.
The past could be forgiven beginning with happy endings
In the brave new lucky country of the mall.
Thus into slippery times Juan was born a happy mongrel
Family background tick multicultural


Two centuries after the British boat folks washed ashore.
With his birth certificate Juan got a bicentennial medal.
Brought up by MTV in rap and gangsta lore
(Read baseball cap) like everyone he relaxed & watched
Each fresh war start with a bang & a whimper on TV
Washed it all down with beer and pizza.  His accent is dinkum
Aussie but to many Juan was dark like a foreign country.
Not every where’s a mall, outside there’s a world


Incredibly sad—as seen on tv—huge swathes of continents
Where children search for shrapnel to sell for scrap
Where there’s no food on the table, where there’s no table
The nearest shopping mall’s a thousand miles away
Here, on the island, the mall is everywhere.
The earth moves under Parramatta Road and the wind
Ruffles a bird of paradise’s tail feathers.
Traffic zoom drowns speech—outdoors


A sin of traffic exhales and the engines’ great hum
Fills every corner and the sky is beautiful toxic grey
You drive with the heart and drive till you’re done
So right to be a maniac—don’t go there—roadside
Doomed hands reach up from the steering wheel
— Juan left his chariot parked underground —
Inside the mall is safe and warm.  Atoms vibrate
Molecules agitate and bring the blessed their reward.


Shopping’s a way of life except for the bored
Cashless kids the mall management tries to keep out
But wants them back to join in and spend they listen up
Flamenco muzak is ecstasy and like a dragon’s
Spine, the escalators rise, rise
And glide among the shiniest place of all time.
Up, up shining the way paradise should shine.
Fashion is as fashion does post-modern style &


Bliss grows fresh from the strawberry’s heart
Glows rockmelon, avocado and smoked salmon
For the masses, the fragrant mix of simmering meat
Baking bread, hairdressers’ vinyl incense
Happy roasting coffee beans, chocolate
And all the world’s ice-cream, kebabs and
Hamburgers’ crackling aroma you can eat the air.
There’s gadget apparition digital virtual electronic


Electric, mountains of myrrh, silver appliances
Raw pearls for faithful lovers.  Come buy! come buy!
Say signs and glowing screens, sports clothes, shoes, mobile
Phones, cane furniture, over a million cds, and health’s accessories
Are all for love and family.  Things. The escalators carry shoppers
To the dollar’s many possibilities.  The mall is happy hunting, a
Gleaming chapel, farm and village magic well,
Radiant hub and sacred site: two-hundred shops sell


What people want or can afford and the mall gives
Warmth and truth: tinsel music, indoor forest
Pets, banks, books, cameras and food without end
Oceans away from the rubble and tents
And the magic goes home with a happy customer.
All the houses and flats are furnished, decorated
Supplied by the mall and all the homes add up
And make a giant house and whether his place or hers


Everything was warm, gratifying like making love
In a furniture showroom, at home the mall kept satisfying.
Sometimes Juan sells Es and speed in the mall’s dark corners.
He’s discreet, part of the mall’s culture.  Now Juan
Works the mall searching for a pulse, gazing at blue
Windows when security stop and ask where he’s going
Where he’s been— times like this feel kind of low—he
Considers the happy fates of serious school mates


Good citizens populating new suburbs and interstate.
Explorers from the Middle East and Indochina. 
They’d borne the souls of family-caring birds or mammals,
Not like a wolf.  ‘Hey Juan!’ someone calls from a shopfront,
‘Hey Juan—your life sucks.’  Hanging round in the mall
Might suck.  Being a nine to five loser really sucked especially
When you can be Don Juan spinning the wheel of life.
Bring it on, bring on whatever life brings.  A robot moment


Calm robots squeeze up and down the escalators
Juan nods to robot acquaintances —humanoid
Ravers disguised as normal people.They haunt
The clubs where disco perfect grace keeps people
In touch with their feelings.  In a healthy society
People think about sex once every five seconds.
Juan ’s companions came and went —in a world
Where you grow up mainly so you can pay the bills


Juan was fine to spend time with, occasionally.
Pillow talk means you’re not dead yet and sometimes
It is good to be desperate. As with melancholy
You don’t need hunger to do desperate.  In fact
A bit of cash means you can do desperate with style
Like Byron the romantic saint was wealthy yet melancholy,
And desperate to live life.  He knew he’d be gone
Before completing his epic about Don Juan, a youth who


Loved to charm houses full of women whose names like
Aurora, Julia, Haidée, and Adeline were the many names of roses.
And on a hot night, Juan was cool as.  Some push
Their luck the young punk Juan caught on shaky video
Sipping eagerly at love’s chalice.   Angels shout delight —
Dance the bulimic babes’ dance then the botticellis’
O veiled breasts o comet eyes, honey hush
There are souls and eyes and lush places to go.


Cabramatta Headline (shrapnel demons)
Race relations success
these three Vietnamese boys
shoot up with skinheads
Apparatchiks might mention theory, ‘isms’ or morality
At this juncture ‘specially politics or the sacred cow of law
As Juan’s dad told him ‘always vote for the least worst fascist’
A hand of friendship—your government let refugees drown in the sea.


It’s way better at Aurora’s flat her underwear is simply magic
Signals the body and spirit are harmonious.  Juan swoons, melts
Swears undying love.  Who cares? A good time fully zonked
An eight-day romp is a journey like any journey a trip
Upon which a youth might embark at the third
Flush of hormones.  Writing a poem can be free or be
A kind of whipping, sweet torture of rhyme!  The
Original Don Juan was composed in ottava rima,


A stanza of eight lines of heroic verse, rhyming
Abababcc, used here as a kind of primer to paint words on.
‘As useful as painting coral reefs,’ history growls in its cage.
Desist from the gentle reader stuff.  Forget the paint and primer
Time to log on Playstation ® game Shopping Mall Don Juan 2010
The opening level sees Juan racing through a maze
Of streets talking behind hands, smiling like a butcher or
A therapist waiting while sirens wail around him.


You’ve got to figure out what he’s doing to proceed
To the next level.  Passing through a twirling screen
Icon earns extra life and strength to fight on
And save the kungfu princess bride.
But first the car park, get in the car, turn the key
The noble steed Impreza gallops up the ramp
Beats the traffic six thumping speakers
In the doors & under the dash a 24 valve injected


Powers alloy wheels, the engine’s grunt
Floats like a discotheque above curvy freeway.
Finds a place at the bar, spinning stars punctuate
Sees eyes and sees the soul smiling in the eyes.
Every time Juan steps on the pavement
He steps into a new car (dream option) a power girl
Hands him an orgasm in a tall glass.  Now Juan has to interact
With his city’s myths—urban cowboy, tribes and gangs,


Witty lawyers, the town and country mouse, aliens (imagine)..
Best of all the Sincere Young Miss Who brings Humanity
To a Man’s Monster Soul.  Together, powers combined
They confront life’s disasters.  Live happily ever after.
But Juan craved love the way a poem might dream many
Readers or a parched traveller chase desert mirages
And Juan found oases real enough, felt oneness
With his calling to see loveliness like a bird set free


By touch and kiss and share his wicked happiness.
Juan took care of himself and stayed alive worked out
Seriously at the fitness centre adjacent to the mezzanine.
As tensile as a loaded spring a nunchaku on a fling
. . . and he felt good, mind and body without fear
Every five seconds he thought about sex and
Juan’s mind made love with the atmosphere.
His goddesses are fine with most of this.  Karen a sunny


Blonde florist brought breathless roses and camellias.
Kandy baked at the bakery.  Kelly the indoor pet specialist
Say no more.  Wendy had a room out the back at Toys-R-Us.
Cherry was Cafe Cognoscenti’s creamy gal.  Lisa brought rustic
Charm from the hardware store checkout.  Fan just hung around.
Svelte Lee Lin from the emporium undressed behind a paper screen
Kathleen a sandy haired beautician was a dream outdoors in the rain
Poppies and tulips grew wild in Juan’s garden and kept life sane.


Like lions men should lead their natural lazy lives —
What happens when you reach the use-by date?
When Juan was out of it he might philosophise —
Everything lives and dies, souls go on or end
You find out soon enough, and Juan had bodies to attend.
To wake at noon’s beautiful daze and hear high heels
Clatter down the hallway and not know who it is
Until she walks in the door is a happy state of being.


And remembers ah Lee Lin  lovely, brilliant.  The escalators call.
Driving to the mall Juan sees the troika of hairdressers
Who made New Year’s Eve such a treat—a shocker —
A hard body works harder with chemicals driving.
Superficial? It beats being Hitler or Martin Bryant or
A political jerk who profits from poor children crying.
Everyone here’s happy polluting the world
With garbage and dreams and with Nature dying


Juan knew it was too late to save the Earth.
You might as well enjoy the technology and the girls.
If you’re honest in life there’s no need for sincerity. 
Romance, however, is always necessary.
Flowers chocolates and conversation (sigh).  Juan
Learned early from TV that puddles multiply the moon
And the white moon trapped by quiet lily pond
Distracts lovers them moaning full deep.


But when you swallow a karaoke machine—as Juan had —
Sparks fly, smoke billows, the microphone attacks
And tears your shirt off.  A weekend of wrong choices
Read their eyes and hear their voices.  Who want something.
This afternoon in the coffee shop Juan watches
Angels fall through the atrium’s glass roof their buckets
And brooms fell from heaven on his head.  Graffiti
Swirled like a prayer, the rippling of her lovely hair. 


Regarding the matter of Lee Lin’s brothers.  Five
Big Brothers—old fable when billy goats gruff
Meet Aladdin.  He met the guys at the club.
Juan’s life choices made for him: a fine son-in-law
Or painful ending—there’s nothing like a shotgun
Wedding to focus and give closure.  Juan saw the future
Wearing a white linen suit and liked the look.  He settled
Down with Lee Lin  and worked for her family’s emporium.


Three years in accounts then Juan &  Lee Lin flew out.
Lee Lin  would run the family’s Jakarta warehousing wing
There’d been disputes and Juan’s doubtless charms
Could prove persuasive, pivotal.  And Juan stepped
Up to the next level: a Jakarta mall pushing a stroller
Down a shiny escalator.  Outside is hot & raining so many lives
Beginnings and endings, Juan’s and Lee Lin ’s hearts entwined
The world rose and fell around them, breathing.