Buzzword Books

Middle Kingdom

Middle Kingdom

Poetry with a kick. World-traveller Farnsworth's take on life and localities is just the lift you need.

David FarnsworthDavid Farnsworth was born with an atlas in his mouth and could name the capitals of all the world's countries in junior school. His love of literature is rivalled by his passion for geography and he has travelled to countries most tourists would never consider.
   
Now, Farnsworth in his expansive years - teacher, thespian, runner, hiker, bon vivant and raconteur - can be found as readily in Weifang or Prague as Sebastopol, Victoria.
    Beneath the satire in his verse is compassion - not an unusual literary stratagem and, possibly, a wise one. This acerbic anthology includes a number of award-winning poems. (23,000 words.)

"His jaded eye never blinks."
       D. S. Mills, Commissioning Editor, Buzzword Books

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Farnsworth's take on life is wry but always amusing. Read a selection here:

Penn Central Station

If you ever have to leave Pittsburgh
choose to go out by rail.
No matter if the station
is a sad reflection of past energies. Four passenger trains a day
is a terribly inadequate amount of traffic
for this glorious station
with its huge tessellated roof
and tile-covered pillars and floor. Booths and kiosks are closed up and arrowed
giving the station a gap-toothed appearance.
Modern additions
the hanging ceiling
suspended by hundreds of wires.
The new Amtrak Booking Office:
the self-opening doors
have the appearance of fillings
executed by an amateur dentist. Modern lockers partly hide
a fall-out shelter sign which hides...?
Directions are forthright/deliberate.
Abruptly arrowed 'Use Other Doors!'
'Passengers with reservations check tickets here!'
Only the 'No Loitering!' sign bears the conviction
borne by new paint. How many people are sheltering from
the sub-zero temperatures outside?
Two brakemen warm their hands and gloves
by the central heating. A lady with pursed lips stares through
pale-rimmed spectacles, crossing a
statuesque leg bathed in black nylon,
toes pointing, pose unchanging,
red coat challenging.
A painted lady, gold rings supporting her ears
protected from life by a leather coat
and a white poodle on her lap. A proverbial natty Colonel Sanders
white clipped moustache and beard
paces the floor. Finally, the movement of people
indicates that the train is imminent
and we wheel our cases
onto the platform. Amtrak cheerily invites us
to join their Broadway Limited
and we crunch through the ice
oil flares smoking
the half mile to the waiting carriage.



A Torn Achilles

It is necessary for patients to
notify enquiry desk on arrival.
On arrival, patients are
requested to notify enquiry desk.
Further, you are requested to
notify enquiry desk on arrival.
Failure to do so may result
in your spending the whole day
in the surgery waiting room.
You may be reduced
to reading the Women's Weekly
or The Rotarian.
Remember. You are requested to
notify the enquiry desk on your arrival. Lead me to the enquiry desk!
Yes. I'm fully covered by Medibank Private.
No. There's little chance that I will
be unable to pay for any services
or Health that you may be able to give me.
My date of birth I will write down for you.
And yes... I must confess...
My mother did smoke.
No. I have not been X-rayed
or been seen by any
of your colleagues for similar
or related injuries. You'll need to look pretty closely.
My injuries are not readily visible
or accessible.
In fact, I feel rather sheepish
about the actual insignificance of my injury.
While other people have been limping in here
or being wheeled, I've been
leaping up stairs two at a time.
Same time next week? Beaut!
Do not forget to inform the enquiry desk
of the date of your imminent arrival.
Your departure you may wish to signify or indicate
by making some inappropriate sign or gesture
in the general direction of the enquiry desk.

 

In the Early Morning Air

In the early morning air my breath
exhales and I look longingly for her
long gone and in my mind weigh
up the consequences of her death There were days when the warmth of the sunflower
would emanate from her while the sun
would circle slowly every day
reflecting on those alive and those dead It's too late now to call to the
dead. They've been thirty years dead
and nothing will bring what's done undone.
I'm left with nothing but me.

 

Letter to North Queensland (ii)

I hear an old drunk colliding with the
Southern Freight Train and reassure myself
that the sugar containers are on target
and heading for Cuba or Haiti, or some other
outpost of American civilization.
At 'Rent a Rocket' it's business as usual
as the twenty-year-old Corollas rest quietly under
the spreading mangrove trees and wait while
an estuarine crocodile cleans its teeth with a
leaf rake and concerned rangers pour mer-
churochrome on their wounds and Jodie,
fresh out of Charm School lets her Lurex
swim-suit flash in the chlorinated water and
fifteen bored tourists look at a fruit bat
being suspended from a hand, its wing-like
arms extended in the sun, casting a shadow
over the python who looks like an eel but
they're with the turtles. This old drunk takes
a breather and has a Foster's Draught with his
onion sandwich. Ron Barassi would be proud
of me and of Dermie who was , too
Free with his elbow and accustoms himself
to crocheting and other middle-aged activities
the domain of the over-muscled and I gaze into
the Hog's Breath Restaurant - on TV now -
offering food straight from your worst nightmare
and when you finish there, you buy a Coke at the Hog Inn.
 


In the friendly heart of Eden

In the friendly heart of Eden
we keep looking for a serpent something to put the dross on,
the glint of the decent, to guide us into buoyancy
pleasure, too quick to enjoy, on the brink, always just beyond reach,
always just one token short of a jackpot. 
Aquaculture, Southern China
Does it work, this musical melody?
Small ducks floating in the middle of glass.
A heavy mist pervading, it will pass.
The sampan unconcerned with threnody.  A previous Lord of the Manor now
Looks contentedly from his tomb of stone
Built on a walkway, no fear that a bone
Will disturb the lake. The lotus will grow. Their leaves are still. They do not flap at all.
Here in the hiatus between heat storms,
People plant rice in rows. The rice conforms.
Like most of us, it's happy with its wall. Bundles of rice seedlings waiting to grow
People bend backs, reach for yet another.
Their feet, like the small boy, wet. No bother.
He's fishing, exploring the river's flow.  



A District Inspector Calls

You need to pay more attention
to the details. The marking of the
roll, the balancing of the
cash book. Your blackboard writing is neat.
You probably need more detail in the
work program. I get very little
idea from that of what you are
actually teaching. Try and position yourself better
in the classroom, so that you
can see all the students. Yes.
I know it's your first school. Three months later, a self-stamped
addressed envelope  came
with a tiny blue piece of paper in it
half the size of a piece of toilet paper,
On it was typed;' Teaches in
an enthusiastic manner. Needs
to pay more attention to detail.
GOOD.'
'Very Good' would have meant promotion.
Overhead the black cockatoos squealed.

 

My teacher says the reason we are so comfortable
now is because of the Communist Party.

The Communist Party provides the school I attend
and the food on my plate.
I'd like to be a butterfly
tripping from flower to flower
drinking of the nectar
of all the sweetness abounding
or else a bee...
My teacher told me the Communist Party,
over the decades, has fought for us
to be free and happy.
The bee lands on the lotus
and contemplates how a thing
giving off such a pervasive perfume,
of such beauty, could rise from
the dank depths of the pool.
Meanwhile, the lovers, reassured
by the Communist Party's incantations
promise eternal love, supported as it will be,
by calligraphy and green tea.

  

Certificate for Working with Poets

Thank you for your cheque for $300.00,
together with your application form. Unfortunately, your application was
unsuccessful. I will read you parts of the report
from the Poetry Police. You have exposed yourself on three occasions
to readings by bush poets.
You use clichés in your poetry
like most people use Kleenex.
You tell and don't show in your poetry. Yes. I can understand that in Primary
School you took part in 'Show and Tell'
but you should know the difference by
now! You have been recorded bad-mouthing
Professional Writing and Editing Courses.
As well, you have made some very
unprofessional statements about some
Poets in a Major University. I believe you don't edit your work.
I can only assume you are either mad or
demented.
Most poets worth their salt complete forty
drafts. After this process, they can hardly
recognize their own poem I am recommending 'aversion therapy'.
Because of your advanced age and parlous health, I have
ruled out clinical castration. Maybe you might like to submit another
application in two years' time?