minor manifesto

Kit Kelen


vestiunt lanae: mihi parva rura et
spiritum Graiae tenuem Carmenae
Parca non mendax dedit et malignum
            spernere vulgus.

But I am rich too: Fate, an honest patron,
Has given me a small farm, an ear fine-tuned
To the Grecian Muses, and a mind from vulgar
            Envy aloof.
                        – Horace, Odes, II.16




all of the trails brought me now vanish

the gate grows over

…lost to the world


then let’s make clear the play position –

I only desire to afford to be poor

I do not pretend that is not to desire


here heaven is with me

how else to imagine?

there’s still the odd delivery

the elsewhere seeping like a stain


hear the road, that it hums and grumbles

the pigment takes


if the lines can come

innocence will shape our soil


all that we need is fashioned for us


what does a magpie know about rain?





read in that light omens suggest

my tenure as fallible as the rest

this is the place to park


true, echoes from nowhere

come hammering home


the world is a market

no way not to play


but the world is many things besides

some of those biting are bit





here on my own growing gates

tending fences, commending their collapse


shrunk daily in circumference

one should acknowledge mastery


among sunfall and foliage

loathed and admired

is it not I who make

the landscape looking?


I am the field here

cattle numb in


rain is waiting

for thirst to be spoke

taps on my shoulder home





dawn again

this last

bright irony of the condemned


you see how the light is cast

lacks attention


the day grows over

everything done

vanity, vanities


out there the wall all window

you walk through it

were meant to

it’s in the bones


ramshackle lines

knot me


now living in the longed for time

breathing sculpture I am

the weeds pull round





all day today

my footsteps after

out of breath


sky is a wing

folded out over

the reckless stretch of facts wed to

sore distraction


some nights the anaesthetic wears through

you see what you’ve made

weep, laugh





gentle at strings and by all airs


you dizzying

the gospel of less

none left to preach


here goes though


best rule


easiest first

pick the windfall

before tugging

unless of course

limbs want a stretch


take out the errant weed alone

and leave the clump till last


arms with the barrow as low as they’ll go




I am more in it

by day the passages

and through dream light


myself entailed in

absence of action

the big told-you-so

voices in ether

their knowing untold


console the self with

what they cannot take

by sword, by fire


see how the storm’s hung our antenna


and deliver us from mail

as we who pen to paper impose

such willing distillations

a world





dive in

the screen is all deeps


spit into the vast

no disrespect


it’s all assumption I intuit

here beyond the rubbing out


what mannered vehemence


a breeze sets to paper

day fades the signs

or hollows damp

the pages where they’re hid for good


now ways of saying

edge the said


obscurity is something built

of accidents, the lucky breaks




I’m shaping the ruins

my own trackless waste


let me my work

the guess of chores

to comfort

to the point of fate


my own affects

to lounge about

I’ll swim the given sea


such wild iconic waves toss off

as mutual in admiration





let there be also

lacking effects

passing unnoticed


let lack itself

set free

not be my hairshirt

but victory

all of my kind


Saint Epicurus, here’s my candle

it gutters, there’s proof enough devotion






in absentia

hoarding provisions

plots and fictions


one vague sadness washes me

the all I ever wanted of childhood

crowds now

matter of fact


not remembering what’s to want

even where the ways are lost


something sweet for my retinue

the provinces are led away

they as I legion


in differences

made little as possible

made to mean





sooner or later

they give me a job


teaching ahead of myself a road

as if nothing were known


o that it might be


we took the slow coast

framing tar


the long and the short

of all considered


forgotten in

a flimsy persistence

that laboured failing of words

where paws

have gone before


Christopher (Kit) Kelen is an Australian poet, scholar and visual artist, and Professor of English at the University of Macau, where he has taught Creative Writing and Literature for the last fourteen years. The most recent of Kit Kelen’s dozen English language poetry books is China Years – New and Selected Poems. ‘minor manifesto’ appears in the just out Scavengers Season (Puncher and Wattman).

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