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Michael S. Cunliffe


Cairns, Queensland, Australia

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Fighting A Small Fight


Michael S. Cunliffe

In the world I inhabit the best of intentions always seem to get diverted and diluted,
Caught up in red tape and regulations and business lunches and afternoon teas
Until the best of intentions becomes one of many minor points in the charter of principles
Filed away in a cabinet in a storeroom somewhere down the back of the office.
Creativity and free thought seem invisible in the office,
Absorbed by productivity baselines and rationalised efficiency,
Consumed in the debtor and creditor ledgers, the balances and the audit forms.

My soft-skinned, pale hands mop my brow with a handkerchief.
I face myself knowing I am not just a chunk of human flesh
Placed at a terminal by the manager's office door -
This desk is not a pigmy island paradise to be conquered by the civilised world;
I cannot be drawn into the trial balance under the debtor's ledger;
I will not wear the fashioned collar and lead,
Bright paisley colours, or spots, or stripes grappling at my neck.

These hands of mine are frail but they hold a mighty pen;
This body of mine is diminutive but it holds a head of powerful ideas.
Look at these shortsighted eyes, and these muffled ears,
They take all the world into their arms and cradle it
And pass it to my mind with care and attention to detail.

Moments pass like the waters of the muddy old creek down the back of my flat
Until an ocean of time has run by and left man greying on the back porch,
Every moment in the endless stream burns like fireworks and disappears from the ledger
Yet still inside my mind the words inspired burn like fire,
For years in my brain cells, for centuries on a page
In a book on a shelf, aside a ledger, dusty and undisturbed.

Rocket Science in a Soup Kitchen


Michael S. Cunliffe

"Welcome to the Business Tourism Industry.
It may not be 'rocket science',
But there is a clear process."

It may not be 'rocket science',
Schmoozing on taxpayer funded "not-for-profit" organisation expense,
This grand heist of hopes for the destination's marketability;

This Caesar Salad dressing casually tossed
On the iceberg nebula of a regional destination's
Lemon-squeezed budget -

Tightening the flabby jowls of councillors
With a bitter, bitter taste -
Before Devonshire tea for afternoon nibbles;

Threading a fat, golden fishing line
From the hook of consumers
To the rod of industry.

I choke on bugs, bark and earth
Whilst my colleagues dine on smoked salmon hors d'ouvres
And assorted inedible antipasto delicacies.

Banter weighed in dollars and cents afternoon-long
And crumbs from complimentary dinners spread like pigeon food
Across historic councils' great oak and marble board-table,

And soon I am wrist-watching
For my chance to escape,
Perhaps count my time in keyboard strokes

Rather than luxurious gesticulations with coffee spoons
And offerances of another, yet another round of savoury delights
Whilst cappuccino moustaches go unnoticed right under noses.

After all that I find I prefer ‘rocket science’;
Rather hammering away systematically at chaotic genius
Than sipping Chardonnay at a soup kitchen table.