Richard Hillman

Richard Hillman is the founding editor of SideWaLK, a poetry and poetics journal and selector for SideWaLK [Poets] Collective Inc’s poetry series. He has had three collections of poetry published including Mending the dingo fence (Friendly Street New Poets Three in association with Wakefield Press 1997), Gone up river (SideWaLK [Poets] Collective 1999) and No grounds (SideWaLK [Poets] Collective in association with Subverse 2000: Queensland Poetry Festival). His poetry has been widely published in Australia, New Zealand, Romania, Germany, Canada and the USA. He is presently doing a doctorate in Australian poetry at Flinders University.

Richard’s first collection, Mending the dingo fence, can be purchased on-line from the Wakefield Press website.

tandanya and child

she takes slow steps toward the mock colonial-grey building
stops in closed doorways, searches boarded windows for
beads, the odd toy, wants to know why all the shops are closed
but runs to a ramp, follows tarred snake and stick-figures
before I can answer, she moves with earth’s pace
with those big blue calyx eyes as large as a sky
playing hop-scotch on cement dots, a grid of red
and yellow symbols between her pale pink toes
as if this were another day, another revolution
of sun spots, sacred stars and full moon grace
guiding her feet towards quick electric doors
and low foyer lights within, and is caught there
by cracks of colour, an art shop stimulating the corner
of her eye, her senses pressed with exotica, perhaps
the remnants of a fringe, and a distance (for those without a Past)
as she pushes a heavy glass door, painted momentarily with her
shimmering reflection, which she does not notice
yet cuts to petitions pasted on cardboard
and a parallel universe of proclamations, the equanimity
of mauve deserts squared in customary frames
a shell grave and sand through fingers for Terra Nullius, 1992
walking softly with head up beneath captions, inserts, poems
desires, tears, hard words which she cannot read, photos
and maps, beige forms, bruised feet and scars, mesmerising
curves of a body, a treeless plain, rills as wavy as hair
repeat a pattern, the absence of life, the gaps in mourning
and creases, wrinkles on aged flesh, red moon rising
over crossed ashes, the debris of invasion, dispersion
and incarceration, a Royal Commission into Deaths in
Custody, parents and stolen children, profiles of shots
being fired in protest, kings and queens restless
with draped flag, the memory of a white mushroom cloud
over Maralinga, turning faces to grey down Yalata way
so far from home, red sand and thirty years of sunses
to catch-up on, Maralinga Nullius, native titled now
she climbs these painted stairs, toward the mezzanine
her four year old feet searching for voices to match the faces
already her movements make the sounds of a language
many would rather ignore

After viewing the Native Titled Now Exhibition during the
Adelaide Fringe Festival, March 1996.

From Mending the Dingo Fence: Friendly Street New Poets Three

Images in your absence


everyone we meet invents us, whether we like it or not
Adam Phillips

who are you tonight
your face caught in half shadow
beside the balcony curtain
split by my words
the breeze off Elizabeth Bay
parting your sandy hair. I have watched
you throw your half-full coffee, kick
your suitcase half-way across
the room, read half a poem
and fall to your knees
as if the ground had only room
for half of you, that your other half
had been left somewhere
and these words could do nothing
to lift you to your feet, could say
nothing that might hold you together
longer than that moment when I felt
I had held all of you that was special
trying to keep the versions of yourself
down to a minimum, I lost sight of you
the thin ribbons of your hair
floating out over the Bay
cannot be retrieved as easily
as these tears you collect at your feet
refilling your glass with the finest red
your eyes could muster
I almost think I know you.


one is unavoidably faithful to the dead body growing inside one
Adam Phillips

plans to meet people we’ve never met
take a back seat as we drive into town
for coffee at the Cordo, Barrack Street
beside the foundation stone where Athena,
a gift from the Lord Mayor of Athens,
once stood. our words erect something
in her absence, images of a misplaced
Australia, a lone stubby holder, or
half-empty glass from Friday
night’s rage through Sydney’s streets,
pigeon droppings and graffiti, how we
account for the metamorphosis of a stone
into something less, the Athena inside us
a myth that has crept through shadows
to lie in someone else’s bed, no quick note
to tell us when she’ll be back, but litter
collecting at her feet and the people who
pass by without noticing that she is gone
cannot recall the day she entered our lives
or that she ever lived as anything but
an image of someone who has died though
she probably never knew about the image
of her death others have always carried
inside them.

From Friendly Street No. 25: Flow

Ground Water

Colo River, December 2000

Summer approaches with a promise of thirst,
a presence of mind bottled at the hip, a blue-capped range
rising in the West like another Mecca to be ascended
or stripped of reason: at the end of the Upper Colo road
a lyre bird scuttles with its twin until
beneath a cross-thatch of poorly cut lantana, they disappear.
The outbreak of fencelines that has followed us
seems to have found a cure, some private act
of diminishment as the final gate falls away
and lets us through. In this tie-dyed wilderness
air mists with the illicit scent of oil burners, candles
and incense. Naked charms flop in feral cleavages
without demand. There is touch and unrestrained
movement as we are led into Eden, the unchallenged river
an unscorched sound stroking the swollen earth beside us.
In every smile there is a letting go, an idea found
in each spoken work, the utterance of nourishment
that rises up like ground water from somewhere deep inside,
or below, the torn canvas of things that have been driven
underground, and allowed to turn: a certain moistness
that we now press softly to our parched and searching lips.

From Friendly Street No. 26