Hot Desk Extract: six gay bushrangers

As part of the Wheeler Centre's Hot Desk Fellowship programme, Harry Reid worked on a collection of personal and historical poetry, six gay bushrangers, exploring the colonial mythos of Australia and investigating poetry’s ability to unsettle these narratives.

The excerpt below includes two poems from the collection, which looks at both forgotten histories and the present, each informing the other to create new understandings and mythologies.

Black and white photograph of a highway in front of a mountain range, with a colour sign that says 'Welcome to California'

Image: Scott Limbrick (modified from a photo by Bob Dass, CC-BY-SA 2.0)

i swear to god i will solve the rack man case just give me two weeks

give me something to wail on
i want instant justice like fly-spray

this train carriage is a court-room
& i’m the judge, handing down

25 to life for the man wearing btk glasses
& getting off at south kensington 

at home my kitchen’s a crime scene
i’m the sheriff of the group chat like 

cooking dinner i’m mad at 70’s america

do the fucking dishes guys
& take the bins out it’s wednesday 

cooking dinner i’m mad at 70s america
like what the fuck were you doing

letting rodney alcala on the dating game
right in the middle of his murder spree

& how come cheryl was the only one
who thought he was a total creep?

i wash up like forensically
leave a fork in the sink like a calling card

fall asleep listening
for footsteps outside my window

watching a documentary
on the hillside strangers 

think about paving the driveway with gravel
so i can hear when anyone approaches 

wake up & put tiny numbered markers
all throughout the house

march my housemate around the living room
showing him where he missed with the vacuum

he hates it but he lets me
keep these little rituals 

like taping off my bedroom
when i need some time alone

or microscopically examining
all the hair in the shower

so i know no-one has broken in
& used all my shampoo 

it’s only because i can’t walk
through the park anymore 

without my phone in one hand
& my keys in the other 

so i’ll keep gary ridgway’s 48 life sentences
in my pocket for good luck

light a candle for every one
of dudley kyzer’s 10,000 years

go home & thank god
i don’t live in california 

my wives, ranked

(my first and most infuriating wife)

i)
mary fucks off to oxford
and i write a pamphlet 

why won’t god grant me a divorce

mary fucks off to oxford / and i write a pamphlet

ii)
mary                  comes back like autumn
a little older   falls asleep on my chest

three years dissolve
into shame like a knot 

iii)
sweet mary
gives birth in the next room
and leaves me once again

(my second and briefest wife) 

katherine       almost saintly

her back to me
like a re-run of the news

marriage as express train
marriage as replacement bus

this morning
from my desk
i see her in the garden
and draw the curtains

my third and best wife

o summer       o england
empire falls at the touch of elizabeth !

her voice like a lighthouse
her hands like parliament

o eyesight       o cromwell
both forgotten at the breast of elizabeth !

pamphlets and children be damned
i sink into a decade of paradise
and at the end i leave it all to you, elizabeth !

Portrait of Harry Reid

Harry Reid is the Wheeler Centre's Receptionist.

They are also a poet living in the western suburbs of Melbourne. Their work has appeared in Cordite and Voiceworks.

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