States of Poetry 2016 - South Australia | 'What Do I Owe Them?' by Ken Bolton

Should the unique serve to typify?
Have they been ill-used? To what purpose?


Asian Couple

                    The Asian couple.
I am inclined to think Chinese –
mostly on the basis of size,
but not Japanese (the man
might be bigger, be
better, less self-effacingly
dressed) – maybe not
mainland Chinese.
is a bright shape & colour
Soutine, Sargent, van Dongen –
for the fast, big city.
I like her for her good humour,
appetitive, optimistic – for her
visual eclat. Tourists, or living here?
In the market – for oysters, sights,
real estate?
She has her husband's arm. Both smile.
He is laid back.


African Girl with Chips

The Africans seem increasingly
to fit in. They are a new factor.
Week by week less surprising.
They assert themselves
in small groups, talking animatedly
in pairs, striding, quieter solo.
Perhaps the chips are protection,
compensation, or just a meal. An
ordinary girl – of 18, of 20 or so?
Black jeans, blue top a fashionable
parka, her expression one of
caution, defence, apprehension.
She looks about.


Fast-walking guy

The guy walking fast, phone
pressed to his ear – all for business –
in which case the business looks shifty
tho it may just be his manner – on his way to borrow fifty,
meet a friend, give somebody
a piece of his mind, pick
a car up, have an argument



The homeless guy I see him
only from the back, which makes him
more of a 'subject' – 'subjects' look out
a window, don't they, like I do –
& think – & as with
those romantic paintings I see
his view – it's mine – he is 6 metres further in –
rounds the corner, moves eastward
with the crowd. Rundle Mall. Somewhere.
Which might be what he is thinking:
where to go, what to do, for
heat, for movement, the long day to fill in.

(The young guy in black – who rounds the corner
of the Boulevard – Gilbert Place – thinks what?)



The thirty-year old with the umbrella,
striding – where the homeless kid
was strictly 'graphic novel' –
has that hipster look,
of operetta.

Debonair. Protected


Ken Bolton

Ken Bolton

Ken Bolton

Ken Bolton lives in Adelaide where he manages the Australian Experimental Art Foundation’s Dark Horsey bookshop. His most recent collections are A Whistled Bit Of Bop (Vagabond Press, 2010) and Sly Mongoose (Puncher & Wattmann, 2011).  Shearsman (UK) issued his Selected Poems in 2013.  He edited Homage to John Forbes (Brandl & Schlesinger, 2002). His art criticism has been collected under the title Art Writing (Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia, 2009) and can be read here. (Photograph by Bianca Barling)