William RussellWilliam Russell, born in Victoria, has been published in journals and anthologies in Australia and overseas, including: This Australia; Meanjin; Borderlands; Antipodes;and Paintbrush—and Inside Black Australia; Spirit Song; and The Sting in the Wattle. Poems like Red, God Gave Us Trees To Cut Down, Blackberrying and Tali Karng: Twilight Snake have been included in international anthologies and education curricula. Peer poet-playwright Gerry Bostock spoke of him as someone really up against the odds: “a blind, ex-serviceman of the Vietnam era, with PTSD, a fair-skinned Aboriginal male—and, worst of all, a poet.”   William draws from defining and extraordinary life experience, disability and deep cultural roots to create a diverse repertoire of poetry.



This fella here…
king, king, king, king…
White fella call him Bellbird—
Yeh, he sound just like little bells—
king, king
We call him King.

White fella loves these bellbirds—
king, king, king, king—
All day singing like every tree
Is hung with bells whose random toll
King, king, from every quarter.

Bellbirds: they are liked by the White fella
Because, they are just like the White fella.
They march into a country king, king,
And chase all the other birds away.

All their king, king, kinging is them talking
About where all their land is…
king, king, kweek
They farm lerp on leaves for food,
And soon enough, all the trees die.
King, kweek, dtjak, dtjak, dtjak.

This forest changes—another habitat—
Another ecology.  No bells today,
Something new tomorrow…
Bang, brroomm.
The wind sighs through the forest
And branches sway…


Broken Legs

I prefer tongue-tied knowledge to ignorant loquacity.

                                           —Marcus Tullius Cicero

In the earliest hours of winter
My mind commands adamantine
Thoughts as sharp as the frost
Of morning. 

Yet my tongue is marled tight
In my head and the keen words
Are as lost as the leaves of trees.
Winter comes.

Sante Fe

Eggs, over easy, on a bed of chili and fried potato,
washed down with Mexican hot chocolate:
breakfast in Santa Fe.


The moon wears a shadow-shawl
over her bright-silvern head
and tied beneath her protruding chin.

She is attempting to enter the window
past garlands of dried red chiles
to the chocolate and watermelon.

Frost enters the casita with the moon.
An owl sighs in the stark tree of the court;
it has eaten, and now watches the moon’s
progress through the window toward the chocolate.
Stars rain in a clear black sky, and a coyote
howls—demanding the moon’s attention.


Juniper and piñon smoke marry
to fly with the silent owl
over adobe and around flakes of snow.

The moon kisses the chocolate
but the frost is thwarted by a fire.
And the coyote moves further up the cañon.


the moon has tasted the chocolate;
I have slept late and now am hungry
for a simple, warming breakfast.

Under a turquoise sky and a dry straw sun,
the adobe has the color of ripe persimmon.
The air is chill and barely moves.
There is a long, deep and descending crack
in the wall of the courtyard outside my casita—
filled with iced snow and a feather of an owl.

I walk up Galosteo toward the shops.
Piñon and juniper incense drifts—no,
sidles along the calles like a cursed dog.

Eggs, over easy, on a bed of chili and fried potato,
washed down with Mexican hot chocolate:
breakfast in Santa Fe.


The Epicurean

He shovels food into his mouth
like a stoker stoking coal;
fingering every morsel
as though the tips of his fingers
are preliminary taste buds
assaying the grease and grit
of his hamburger and chips.

He quaffs the dregs of his beer,
snorts like a pig at a trough,
then delicately dabs his lips
with the corner of his napkin—
every inch the epicurean.