Four poems by Janet Kenny

JANET KENNY is very old. She has been an opera and concert singer, anti-war activist, editor, publisher’s researcher and food writer. Born in New Zealand, sang in the United Kingdom, agitated in Sydney and now watches birds in Queensland. Her poems have been widely published. She co-edited, compiled and wrote Beyond Chernobyl published by Envirobook; Her two collections of poems are This Way to the Exit (White Violet Press) and Whistling in the Dark (Kelsay Books)

Antal Szalai’s Gypsy Band in an Australian Country Town

The country concert hall is full

of old Hungarians who’ve come

from miles away to hear the thrill

of tarogato, cimbalom,

but most of all—the violin.

And what a violin! They say

that after he had heard him play

Yehudi Menuhin embraced him,

so deeply had Szalai impressed him.

When they start there’s such a shock

as though the world had run amok

sound rips around the walls and hits

the ceiling, strikes the metal parts

of doors and watches, and the hearts

of sleepers who have come to life,

and young again, accept the knife

of youth and pain; the lightning bursts

in every space and now it’s Liszt’s

transfiguration, Gypsy grief

and desperation, time the thief, 

it weeps then changes with a bang,

to pure delight as high notes hang

above the hall so high they hurt

with panpipes conjuring a bird; 

they’re old, this audience, and know

that this is love, the silent bow

that holds suspended all they are

then lets them down through sunlit air;

the gypsy and the bird are free

like them, they leave him thankfully

in songs and dances, out the door

to Queensland which they never saw

the way they see it now, with strings

to all the loved remembered things.

Flying Foxes 


Fruit bats hang in clumps atop

the canopy. Plumb head-down drop

of screechbats. Nosferatu crops

of dangling-grippers shuffle out

on tight-crammed branches; poke to flex

ribbed, leather black umbrella wing

as prod displaces neighbour’s roost.

Stench circles trees in clouds of retch.

Night falls, then lifts of creatures streak

across the sky on ancient tracks,

air-trod by troops of foxbats, hot

to reach the fruit of memory,

wing wafts of time above the road.

Tienanmen Shopper

         Whatever happened to him

  that man with the shopping bag?

     You all saw how

     he moved from side to side,

     head erect, graceful,

     as the tank moved, 

     trying to avoid 

     his intransigent blocking figure.

     The driver was a man too, 

      and felt for this

     stubborn stubborn  man

     who refused refused  to

     move and we watched,

     hearts in mouths, never knowing

     whether he lived or died.

     What happened…what… what did happen

     to that stubborn stubborn  man?


Here for a flash then not. God, did you see

the streak of eyes, the fleeting blur, the space

vacated when you thought there was a face?

The silent grace where now a stolid tree

refuses to divulge just what it was

passed by its vigil. Four feet, two or none?

Grass won’t expose a creature to the sun.

Discretion in cahoots with beasts because

a law denies betrayal of the catch

to predators who watch but miss the track

till jaws or beak or claws make swift attack

when luck dismembers prey that met its match.

Each on its own united by the same

entrapment in an old sadistic game.

A scientific mechanism made

by particles that never feel afraid.