Navigating in Woods

Ben Adams


Ben Adams is a writer, retail clerk, festival worker and research assistant whose poems have appeared in Australian Love Poems, The Grapple Annual, Indaily and Tulpa Magazine. His first complete collection of poetry, A Synonym for Sobriety, won the Friendly Street Single Poet series competition and was published in 2019.  

something for the climate sceptics, conspiracy theorists, news corp hacks and you


with apologies to Charles Bukowski,

after his 'something for the touts, the nuns, the grocery clerks and you'


crimson sky, blood

bronze—the moon a talisman

of death


this is the world we have

not the one

we’d wished for


and your calls

for considering

alternative explanations


from those provided


by experts consumed


with desperate knowing

about how this slouching beast

was birthed—


—strike me as nothing more

than a choking hazard



than each

and every

wave of smoke



over bunkered cities

and burnt towns in this


new world order

you—and yours

have wrought

Scotty from marketing


—wants us shimmering

in the horizon haze

dumb beasts



a fire-butchered



and burning divine

for the worst

of what Luther meant


never charity

without a cost

never seeking forgiveness


for the sins of our past

without a sideways glance

and whispers that—


despite the facts of history

it’s really them who should be forgiven

by us


for talking back

and daring to ask

not just for love, but recompense


because love

of all things

should not be


an incantation of the elect

—of some imagined unity

but a working-for



and truth

and equity


the best of what Luther meant

was that people should work

for and in the light of their own lord


which, I guess

means something like



and positive freedom

—a radical empathy

that doesn't ask the lamb


to get along with lions


is not a baptism of fire


but slow smouldering


and difficult thought


not dumb beasts slouched

burning divine for the worst

of what he means by God



who kills the world?


Hitler was—

a tortured artist who loved animals

a vegetarian


and Charles Manson

was a hippy, a small-time muso

who called white American youth the young love


and sought to ensure the Age of Aquarius kicked off

with a helter-skelter race war that would end


in his sole dominion over the remnants of a dead earth


don't always accept what people say

they believe in, vaguely—ask for specifics


don’t assume that words can’t be misunderstood

or misused

to hide their true meaning in a given context


take love, for instance

as Dr Hibbert once said

when Mr Burns returned from a walk in the woods


glowing radioactive hallucinations

of an uncharacteristic kindness toward his fellow citizens

in the guise of an alien benefactor—


does that mean the kind of love

between a man and a woman, or the love a man feels

for a fine Cuban cigar?


does it mean love for self, or others?

narrow love for land and nation

and worse—or solidarity with the masses


and those who may not look

or live, or love

like you do


don’t believe in gurus

no matter how convincing their performance

of understanding is


and know that all this

is a more complex game than just determining

good from bad, heroes from villains—


John Lennon asked us to imagine

all the people, sharing all the world as one

—but his gender politics were pretty shit


ask for specifics


because the thing is, I’m not saying

you can’t like John Lennon’s music

I’m not saying that art can always be equated with


or defined by the flaws or crimes

of its creators, but—


people like to say that real heroes don’t wear capes

but real monsters, too—dangerous people

don’t have to be anything other than ordinary bureaucrats


or nice guys

who stay angry on the inside


that boy you met by a campfire

who cares more about some godlike vision

of mother earth and the natural order

than he does about any human being

except himself


so—who kills the world?