The Holy Foolishness of Punk, by Susan Bradley Smith

Susan Bradley Smith began her professional writing life as a rock journalist but has also worked as a waitress and teacher. Her latest books are a novel-in-verse The Screaming Middle, the poetry collection Beds for all who come, and the memoir Friday Forever. An advocate for Arts and Health, Susan is the founder of the writing and wellbeing consultancy Milkwood Bibliotherapy, and Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at Curtin University. Her secret ambition is to swim every ocean pool in Australia without writing a book about it.

This poem is from a sequence titled ‘A Short Cycle of Regret…’ and first appeared in Issue 15. Please support our work and buy a copy today.



In these swindling times, I don’t care that

you are married. It is exciting to be bad

and also right. We are in the middle of a

miracle, away together for a weekend riffing

on stolen time pilfered from real life like money

from a mother’s purse. Even though you look

well-loved there are violet bruises beneath

your eyes. You’ve been speaking in your sleep.


You take a call. I read the paper. Those

Pussy Riot girls are licking salt in Soviet prisons

just because of their band’s faultless, unforgettable

name and their splenetic racket and their unlicensed

occupation of public places. Meanwhile, you sit there

and persist with the theatre of your own concerns.

You ask me to pay attention. When I look up you are

so beautiful I can barely believe you exist let alone

love me but you said it: I am your ground zero;

you are my vanguard.

You pause. Today, without your bragging

suit, you look like you did when we were

young and stripped-down and our whole life

only knew three chords. I might as well

complain rain is wet as say please don’t go,

I think, as you take her call again. Some

poseur is fighting another to run the

country. The mafia is at it again in the

suburbs. Mainstream fashion is the new

fringe. It all crackles at my touch. I listen

to you talk, and read the paper, and although

I am one of misery’s best graduates, your

news still shocks me. Just as I had stopped

sliding clichés like thermometers into my

declarations of love—I am your ticket, you are

my collector—you tell me we’re through.

In the café by the harbour we have the kind

of conversation that happens to all lovers

sooner or later—last line: it’s over. I would

have liked to have left the past alone, but as

you talked about the failed philosophy of us

my shock soured to a bitter glandular juice

making quick work of all sentiment, like

camphor on the mouth of memory. It’s true,

I’d been monothematic this is not a love song

but before ‘us’ you were anhedonic, split in half

from the very idea of who you once were.

Are. Remember Hastings? The Sex Pistols

gigography was once also ours. What can

anyone possibly say anymore that is novel

enough to warrant imprisonment?


The seagulls are not my friends and their

eyes marbling my toast are also yours. I am

limp with terminality. At the table opposite

a father is busy being humiliated by his wife

who is documenting his failings in the presence

of their son. How utterly cruel it seems. The café

table is smiling at me with sun-kissed woodshine

and spilt sugar as gay as Christmas. I am

spoiling the scene with my tight, peppered

offence but my love will not quiet. It will

not hurry like inspiration to the end just

to suit you. Sluiced in sunshine or not,

I remain a citizen in a closely beleaguered

city and within the citadel of us things

could still go either way.

Utopia now

We are so old, yet you have turned me

into a pop song, into someone you used to

love, a hangover that creeps up on you

before you’ve even finished drinking.

Marriage must be a first-rate thing

for you to sing its tune despite your

antidisestablishmentarianism blues but

seriously: love as anthrax? No one really

wants to catch that again. The knowledge

of us is cream in my bones. Green, I am, and

dreaming again of your strum. You wrote

me love letters in invisible ink but they

still hum. And hum and hum, like the

soundtrack for a revolution.


You walk away from me across the airport

terminal, the floor glittering like a crushed

disco, towards the record shop where all

the songs of us are on sale. And machines

to play us too. Before you make it home

I will be arrested for collapsing hysterically

in public places. The cause: no marrow.

Only the concealed heroin of you, wrapped

in the bone of me. Outside it is a gutsy,

sunlit day. Despite the lunatic soak of

needing you, the creep of seizure, the

godly rant of my blood, I turn away.

I let you go. It’s not my day.

Any fool would say.

Hindsight will be Satan.