'Selected Poems' / Ben Armstrong
Ben Armstrong is a 20 year old student living in Canberra, ACT. He has written poetry in and out of flux since his early teens which has seen a refinement in style and meaning, but the core motifs of Ben's poems remain unchanged; anger at treachery, jealousy in love, gratitude in forgiveness and confusion in oneself. Ben uses his writing in an attempt to uncross the wires of emotion - to prevent further short circuiting within himself, those he loves
and those he doesn't.
Ben's writing is both sloppy and angry, while also cutting and hopeful.
Moving betwixt a direct conversational tone and flowery, romantic hues, the reader is compelled to match his diversity of speed and rhythm - drawn in by fast paced emotion to the point of complete immersion and back out by a particularly cerebral line provoking myriad trains of thought.
Some poets (Baudelaire, Atwood, Eliot, Plath, Porter) have undoubtedly shaped Ben's writing style and lexicon, notably evident through repeated references to colour, objects as symbols and implied violence.
T.S. Eliot passage from 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock'
"And I have known the eyes already, known them all -
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
And how should I presume?"
There are too many things clattering about my head.
Too many worn out shoes and Swedish sunsets.
Vases of dead flowers that I come home to alone.
And nights pressing on the candle sticks.
Many an irritating socialist and radical youth that forgets he forgets.
Too many garden paths and grimy smoke stacks.
So many mornings of unmade beds, ragged as the night's sleep.
Too many arid western desert planes
Seen from windows on aeroplanes
That string you on, long
Over to the far off coast of who you used to be.
Too much angry family.
Too many coloured scarves and loose earrings are swirling through my frontal lobe.
Too many chocolate cakes and bloody lollipops devoured in the back.
So many desolate heaths and waterfalls
of photos of my face grown fat.
And still that stinking purple cat.
Has curled around a little part
And let me know he won't depart.
There's crumpled receipts and large prices for cases of wine turned green.
I bought them for everyone, at that little shop.
But still, the money has been seen.
And it comes back to get me when I feel like a loathed, thigh biting, vile machine.
There's a big mess on the kitchen floor
of blonde men who, recognisable to a friend and Freud,
come in dreams and rape me.
The future has curdled in the milk carton
The coffee of my mind is weak and cold.
The sun shines on the back of my well dead head
As I walk down to the street and intend to meet all there is in a single day to meet.
And all the cracking shadows of that junk is brought out in the sun.
All the sickly shadows.
They are silhouettes of mountains in my head
That slam against the minutes of the day
I wore your perfume
3 years ago
Before I knew you.
I can smell myself,
An old self,
But I can’t touch you
Because I don’t smell like you anymore.
Now, I smell like someone else
Who I guess
I’m yet to meet.
3 years ago I probably thought it was you I’d meet
And it would be you I’d love on to
Because now I cling you.
But there’s not much at all that is more than negative space between us.
Huge unsaid regulations
Of how to sit how to breathe how to look at you and how to speak to you, how to give up as much as I can
Without giving up the game.
The game is good at not letting anyone slip.
But like a child
It reveals sweet purple thoughts
That are so deep
They always almost break the surface tension.
Why do I feel sick if I smell you in a corridor?
Why does my brain emit no sense?
Silver odour laced with lead carries me into knots,
Forces my eyes to roll in circles all night.
Now the perfume rings
Of you & I.
With one whiff
It’s two people I can’t help but imagine in my mind’s eye.
But for you
It rings only of you.
Rings of the daily routine
In an impermanent city
Where we meet then I smell you and that’s it.
Don’t smell me
Of Course one of them falls in love with you.
Of course, one of the herd have
Fallen so carelessly into your personality trap,
Laid bare on a chaotic bench.
He’s just tumbled off your mindful cliff
As a crazed,
Jealous lover lost.
Written off and
Caught up in some cut off world in
Alone at the sink.
With a mountain of treacle covered dishes
Licking them till he gets sick.
You’re a tic in the neck of this man’s real life.
And he rips himself away from your smell time after time
To crouch down,
Hiding by the water.
But looking in the pool
He sees his own dead body underneath
The peaceful waters
And refocusing against the glare,
Rearranging the light
He sees your smiling face behind him
In the reflection of the pool.
And a black haired spectre at your back
Egging you on with cold, dead fish hands
And unwise eyes.
He cries in the mirror
And you grin,
Safe and fake in the knowledge that you haven’t really put a hand
In the butter of his heart
That’s got nail gouges in it now.
And his wrists
Wrung with bearable anticipation,
That’s coping with itself just a bit too well
And disappear into unbearable gloom.
Hot Air Balloons
Why is it that clothes on dead bodies always look valueless, no matter how expensive they may be?
Why is it that people are so sweet with a mean streak?
Why have you got to dig up all the garden beds
To even have a hope of finding a bulb of a mind that isn't blushing or bullshitting?
Why is the superb always so closely linked with savagery?
Why are we always crushed by clarity?
And how can we be so filthy in our countries?
A world as dissatisfying as a dandelion
That doesn't come apart as you blow it.
Why is it that young men get so easily carried away
On a tide of endless red?
Borne to an ocean that everyone knows didn't have to exist at all.
Never getting in the median range, but like tired anorexic animals,
Fighting on anyway.
No one's got it all
Except the scraps of luxury.
And what a tragedy that is.
And what a shame it is
That miracle mornings burn bright but brief.
And what a greater shame it is that night times can so easily end
But sometimes we live in those moments that are too beautiful to even write down.
Like a tremendous hot air balloon, we become filled with the hot gas of beauty and Sail away into the sky,
Leaving only a trail of juicy, beautiful thoughts
That might settle back on earth and inspire someone to look upwards.
Grasps of calm
In a time that seems so banal, and in another way altogether quite terrifying,
Strip us back.
They quiet the invisible fluctuations
Of a tiredly drawn face,
And still the pendulum.
You've got to let those thoughts in, and let them fill your head
From horizon to horizon,
Like a misty mountain range, brimming with hope,
All inside your very own skull.