The HyperTexts

Janet Kenny

Janet Kenny left New Zealand to pursue a career as an operatic and concert singer in London, then settled in Sydney, Australia, where she worked in the anti-nuclear movement and jointly compiled, wrote and edited a book about the nuclear industry, Beyond Chernobyl, published by Envirobook in 1993. Her poems have been published in printed and online journals, including Avatar, The Chimaera, Folly, 14 by 14, Iambs & Trochees, The Literary Review, Mi Poesias, The Guardian, The Spectator, The New Formalist, The Barefoot Muse, The Raintown Review, The Shit Creek Review, Snakeskin, Lavender Review, Soundzine, Victorian Violet Press, The Susquehanna Quarterly and Umbrella. Her work also appears in the collections The Book of Hope and Filled With Breath: 30 sonnets by 30 poets. She shared an anthology of bird poems, Passing Through, with Jerry H. Jenkins. She has also received three Pushcart nominations. Her books This Way to the Exit (White Violet Press) and Whistling in the Dark (Kelsay Books) can be ordered by clicking on the hyperlinked titles.

"Janet Kenny has a musician's ear for music, an artist's eye for imagery, and a poet's way with words."—Michael R. Burch
"Whistling in the Dark makes the tune ring bright and clear. Here are poems of observation and extrapolation, anger, despair and love."—Ann Drysdale

Kenny "is essentially surprising and always fresh."—John Whitworth
"Whistling in the Dark is a book by a poet with a highly individual voice, but one that is also wonderfully varied."—Gregory Dowling


A wisp of old woman,
curved like a scythe,
tottered to me as she
fussed her shopping,
her walking stick hooked
on her chopstick wrist.

She spoke to me then
in a dried leaf voice.
Inaudible there
in that busy street,
swept by rude gales
from passing trucks.

I leaned closer to hear:
Mein eyes not gut.
time for bus, ven comes it?
“Which bus do you want?”

She smiled, shook her head
then sang to herself
—and somebody else,
in—not German. Yiddish?
“Which bus?”
She leaned towards me,
her tiny claw reached
to stroke my face.
Du she said.


Published by Web Del Sol. "Du" is the more intimate, familiar German word for "you" and thus the elderly woman seems to have been treating the poet more like a long-lost friend or family member than as a stranger.


If my arms were gangly like theirs, I’d swing in the canopy,
lope in elliptical attitudes, changing my shape,
study and try to avoid unavoidable entropy,
learn about edible fruits from a scholarly ape.
I’d leap in arboreal loops through the tangled immensity
and dangle through chlorophyll rays in a luminous sky
Below me the forest would glow with a jade-like intensity;
I’d dance over darkness, unfurl with the orchids and fly.

Published by Quadrant.


If I go daft before you, Dear,
please read to me and prop me up
to see the sea, and share a cup
of coffee, strong, and stay as near
as bearable before I gape
into white space and start to stink.
That's when to leave my side I think.
When I am just a dribbling shape.

I'll stay with you if you tip first,
and play the music you like most,
make strange bruschetta things, or toast.
I'll read you Wodehouse, quench your thirst.
I'll show you parrots, pour you wine,
watch Monty Python or TotÚ
as smiling you'll forget you know
a face that once you knew was mine.

If we go daft together we
will die like fools without a clue.
You won't help me, I won't help you.
We'll blunder independently,
we'll shut us out, or lock us in,
set us on fire, or lose ourselves
behind the supermarket shelves,
each imbecile the other's twin.

Published by The Chimaera


In the silence of the night lie all that’s good and all that’s bad.
A meditation or a fight, a fright that drives a sleeper mad.
And if I die before I wake, forgive the unobserved mistake.

No lie can make the mountains quake. Beneath the sky our houses shake.
The seeker after truth will fall and, bruised and shaken, hide in shame.
Tomorrow he will not recall the fall, but do it all again.

The child who wakes as horrid crone will not have grown inside her head,
But spend her nursery days alone and die forgotten in her bed.

There’s no escape from minutes marked in darkness waiting for the light.
Before your eyes your life will flash, slow-motion in a silent night.

A silent night where dark things skulk behind the towering wardrobe’s bulk.
Beneath the bed a catafalque, a silken spread for scolds to sulk.
God bless the skull that’s got his own, a bunch of ribs, a finger bone.

Around the palace thorns have grown and bandits hanker for the throne.
A prince will come without a face, a cutlass, riding breeks, and lace.
He seeks a mask to fill the space, but leaves expelled by dogs and mace.

Something important seems to lurk between the hours of sleep and work.
And yet it lingers in the murk, a Cheshire cat without a smirk.

In the silence of the night we lie awaiting ancient spite.
God bless the child who strikes a spark, and fans its glow to light the dark.
The doors are armed, the windows locked, no one is harmed, no subject shocked.
Trees drum the roof with time to kill. Broad daylight finds us lying still.

Published by The Chimaera

My Father’s Eyes

So blue, my father’s eyes out of the river;
he swam too long, I held my anxious breath
sure that some weed or log had caused his death.
Then with a rush the water would deliver
his face, triumphant at my lack of faith.
Proud of his power to frighten me. I never
believed he would survive. He seemed forever
imprisoned in some crevice underneath.
To venture in that dark and rushing pool
was more than I could bear. I chose to swim
in sunlit shallows where cicadas’ prattle
and softly dipping willows made a cool,
consoling summer refuge. Nothing grim
could lurk, or rise intent to smirk and startle.

Published by The Guardian

Mahmoud Darwish

Home exists
only in dreams,
he has no option
but to be used.

Denied flight,
grounded, he howls.

Songs filigreed
by bullets erupt

His mother's tears
encourage his own
brandished as evidence.

Rondeau to the Minister for Immigration

Many are speechless when they are betrayed.
Amnesty International badge displayed
on his lapel—a civilized disguise
for the contempt that flickers in his eyes.
Nobody leaves his office unafraid.

Blandly he bleats his mantra, tailor-made
by bureaucratic minions who are paid
to churn out empty legalistic lies.
Many are speechless.

He is the arbiter, the ambuscade,
hacking the lost and homeless with his blade.
Clinical blandness smirks as mercy dies.
Icy politeness makes no compromise.
Faultless homunculus, whose words are weighed.
Many are speechless.

Published by Shit Creek Review

Out There

One moment light, then dark — no power.
The suburb stopped in sullen shock,
without a warning, for a block
all motors died for half an hour.
Twittering heedless through the trees,
two small marauding ringtail possums
cheerfully sought for shoots and blossoms
unaware of our unease.
Little marsupials, monkey-tailed,
hooked on branches and extended
hands for flowers which were intended
for such as these, then up they sailed
as though no gravity existed;
over canopies they skittered,
barely touching as they littered
poo and petals till they misted
into darkness where they vanished,
leaving me to wait for light
and when it came, too harsh, too bright,
I longed for what my world had banished.

Published by The Chimaera

Last Dance

Old lovers promenade the beach,
bare feet, hands held, they pace the last
of what is theirs. No need for speech,
They walk united by their past.

They pass, united by the walk
of other pairs of lovers, some
still young, engaged in lovers’ talk,
not yet aware that love is dumb.

The tide goes out, the tide comes back,
as one and one and one retrace
their steps to hunt for what they lack
but never find. Their other face.

Broken quatrains of faltering feet
search for a time they cannot beat.

Published by The Chimaera

by Janet Kenny

Come out you psychopathic creep,
you heartless mystery who needs
to frighten children out of sleep,
whose monstrous ego daily feeds
on supplications from the sick
and promises from desperate souls.
Come out and show yourself, you prick
whose victims writhe on burning coals.
Come out, pontificating ghoul
who fattens on the rising praise
of flatterers, whose pious schools
inculcate lies, whose dogmas craze
the simple. Come, expose your face,
that vile reflection of our fear.
Know now, there is no hiding place,
mass murderer, no welcome here.
What have you done with it, you thing,
that spirit whom you overpowered?
The one who made the birds that sing?
The one for whom the fruit trees flowered?
The smell of burning flesh exudes
from all your deeds. Your cloven feet
scorch divots as your will intrudes
and mothers cry for milk and meat.
We stir beneath your brutal weight
and creep like prisoners to the light
to stretch our limbs and celebrate
our liberation from the night.
Who dares to name the nameless? Who
lays claim to know the name of You?
Your armies vie to shout your name,
replete with certainty and bile.
The women hide their heads in shame.
It’s you I blame. Your work is vile.
Whatever caused young love to glow,
and buttercups in dewy grass,
and trees to rustle, streams to flow,
it wasn’t you, you horse’s arse.
You are the baby in the lab
with test tubes strewn across the floor.
With random goofiness, you grab
the nearest toy and roar for more.
Larger forces have no time
to notice our catastrophe.
The mathematics is sublime.
We are your past apostasy.
The broken eggs you cracked and used
to make an omelette, and we grow
with you, ambitious and confused,
performers in your cooking show.
Yet every morning hearts expand,
though heads can never understand.

Published by The Flea


Old Mark cries "No" and "No" again.
His protest flies across the park.
It enters houses. "No" his pain
cannot be stopped from dawn to dark.
"No, No" each moment is his first
awareness that he's hit the wall.
What was is gone. His heart must burst
each moment that he grasps it all.
The twilight home that holds his hell
is well endowed, of good repute.
The inmates in each private cell
cry "No" although their cries are mute.
Children stop their play to ask
"Why does the man keep shouting 'No'?"
Their mothers don the adult mask
and maximise the radio.

Published by The Raintown Review and Shit Creek Review

Seen From Above

     driving to Brisbane

Seen from above, our little yellow car
winding up hilly country gravel roads,
shiny and silly among rough trucks with loads,
must appear inappropriate and bizarre.
Is it, perhaps, the very thing we are?

Lovely, the blend of dust and leaf and wood,
balanced by birdsong and the tractor's roar;
action and stillness as our spirits soar,
racing the sun before dark shadows could.
Everything, Pangloss said, is for our good.

Blinded by sunset, tree-flashed, into night,
darkness and moonlight up the motorway,
silvered into the city near the bay
sparkling like fireflies flirting with our sight,
over the great black river framed by light.

Seen from above we blend and disappear.
So many stories. Listen, the laughter bursts,
and ricochets off stone walls. Each spirit thirsts
after the gift of somewhere free from fear.
Seen from above this fragile life is dear.

Published by Barefoot Muse


Today is a day of butterflies but how can I
write of such things for people in cities, caught
in human closeness. If I ever thought
that they could care that all the air of my
garden is crowded with light uplifting
colour and whiteness, wafting, shifting,
I only need to remember the traffic clanking
and think of the feet on the pavement spanking
clipping and shuffling, and voices merging,
decibels surging and iron screeching,
thumping and thudding and Muzak reaching
into the buildings where lovers are lunching,
people are buying and selling, munching
something in paper, and rushing and crossing,
pissing and bossing and talking and meeting:
I and my butterflies are retreating.
Once I was part of the clutter and clatter.
I mixed and I struggled and joined the chatter
and oh, how I loved it, the smells and the fashions,
the colour and movement, the joy and passion
Here with the butterflies in my garden
I bless the living and ask their pardon.

Published by Lavender


As mangoes bash the iron shed
and moonlight floods the grizzled lawn
I think of what I should have said
and toss in bed until the dawn.

Masked lapwings passing overhead
repeat their old nocturnal pain,
kekekeke, a song of dread,
the sun has gone away again.

I talk with all my loving dead,
who tell me they have always known
that light and darkness have misled
the living who are not alone.

Hear fruit-bats screech as overfed
they thunder heavy mangoes down.
A drunk, percussive aliped,
a Nosferatu on the town.

The crows are up. My eyes instead
shut down to miss the morning sun.
The bats, the lapwings, now have fled
my friends leave with them, one by one.

Published by The Shit Creek Review

To a Dying Rat

Rat, I did not lay the bait
that’s brought you to this parlous state.
Your dulling eyes encounter mine
and I recall the famous line:
“Wee, sleekit, cowrin’, tim’rous beastie”
and grieve with Burns, but then at least he
saved the mouse, whereas I watch
your death, old rat, and cannot scotch
the human habits that determine
which are pets and which are vermin.

Published by The Susquehanna Quarterly


Fasten your seat belt, close your eyes, ignore
the musical panic caused by what you hear,
count very slowly as the engines roar,
clutch at the arm rest as the time draws near
for that unstable moment as the vast
body turns round and moves towards the spot
where it will snarl and tear along so fast
that you relive your past, then like a shot,
up, bumping through the cloud towards the sun,
breaking the hold of earth with jolts till high,
suddenly freedom floats you through the spun
wisps Leonardo dreamed of in a sky
he never saw except inside his brain.
You are his eyes, through you he lives again.

Published by The Flea

Paddling Song

Tidal we are and always were, poor newts
walking on land, but slithering home to rest
sad salamander bodies. Wet salutes,
cool as the sea-splashed kisses we love best.
We are the instrument but not the song,
sea ragas blown from shell and bone and spray,
tapped on a coral tabla, swept along,
driven by solar winds to far away.
Everyone is the same beside the sea.
Nothing but light and fractured form that drifts,
bleached into brightness, anonymity,
vagrant and lost in parallactic shifts.

Published by The Raintown Review

Light Weight Dirge

A rather reticent style is said
to be de rigueur for the nearly dead.
Emotion is alienating and shows
a want of elegance near one's close.

Cool is the manner that we prefer
from those we'll probably soon inter.
Horses and children must not be faced
with overt displays of appalling taste.

Public praying is best not done
until the funeral has begun.
'You're not the only one', hangs unspoken,
whenever that rigid rule is broken.

Atheists laugh, but well may shake
with fear as they lie in the dark, awake.
Believers have to pretend that they
are glad to be going there anyway.

Both wonder whether the other might
sleep more easily through the night.
A temperamental banana skin
decides which quandary each is in.

As roses are gathered the question looms
like an elephant in our living rooms.
Blind men may grope and feel its trunk,
but it makes more sense if we just get drunk.

Try not to stagger towards the door
or measure your length on the bar room floor.
Leave with dignity, or at least
maintain its appearance until deceased.


When I tilted at windmills
I kept a newspaper photo
     inside Don Quixote

I knew when I looked,
it would be there,
pegged to eternity
     by Cervantes.

Capuchin monkeys,
in a zoo somewhere,
gazing upwards, huddled,
babies clutched tightly.

'Monkeys hear an
air-raid siren',
said the caption.

Many houses later
my photo lost, the
Capuchin monkeys
haunt me still.

Synchronised, eyes
apprehensive …


The thought that leapt into my head
when I was told of nuclear war
was: All grasshoppers will be dead.

And then it was as if I saw
their jigsaw, zigzag, tensile limbs
meccano-jointed, ready for

Olympic heights in leafy gyms.
Darwinian prodigies that spring
in arcs as freedom's metonyms

for absolutely anything
unfettered where the will finds ways
to levitate somehow, to cling

on any apex where its gaze
looks further to more distant peaks.
And so the seeker never stays,

but leaves the stage to one who speaks
for those articulations lost
to grounded military cliques

who hate, and hurl their one riposte.
Annihilation, endless night,
to win the fight, despite the cost.

Published by The Flea


His smiling lizard eyes surveyed the room.
He joked and punned, but all the while he scanned
the faces as his camera flicked to zoom
on groups whose talk he wished to understand.
He'd chatter to an unsuspecting bore
until more influential fodder came
into the room, then hurry to the door
to greet them by an old familiar name.
He rose upon the fortunes of his friends
while laughing and embracing all he met.
He bought the drinks for those who served his ends,
which served them right; they saw what they would get.
Perhaps he's clinking glasses with the best?
He's gone to God; the ultimate conquest.

Published by The Raintown Review


Light washes form away as morning gleams
across the wooded hills. Two eagles fly,
wings motionless, on thermals. Sea birds cry
below on opal beaches. Something screams.

Alert, I look for victim or for beast
but life continues. Each thing at its best
as early hunger scurries on a quest
and greater creatures prey upon the least.

A hang-glider fringed by brilliance calmly steers
beside the eagles. Arrogant now, he shares
imperious space. He wheels with them, then soars
to veer behind a hill and disappears.

Still taunted by the scream and by the sight
of Icarus who risks his life to live
at one with wild things, how I burn to give
a portion of existence for that flight.

Honey is enough without the sting.
The air is crisp. Waves fall down with a crash
on sunlit sand. The rhythmic tidal wash
releases sadness. Crickets start to sing.

But grass is sweet, the flowers are damp and fresh,
I settle for my fate. I’ll never brave
a cliff to be an eagle. I must save
my courage for the weakness of my flesh.

Published by Helionaut Publications

Savage Morning

Ice-sharp, the probing winter sun
stabs down its light to start the day,
and spider installations spun
by night ignite a flash display.

A spangled drongo, frantic, flies
through glinting trees, a streak of blue
emotion, topped by ruby eyes
in search of something cruel to do.

A snake with open belly, dead
beside asparagus, reminds
the gardener that the potting shed
hides more surprises than she finds.

Who killed the snake? It was not I
who said that everything must die.

No Escape

some impressions from poems by Anthony Hecht

He knew the darkness just beneath our skin
and found some dry amusement in our game
of ethical adjustment to the mean
and shameful deeds we give another name.
He noted some may stop and walk away,
unable to deny complicity;
the ones who stay the course and live the lie
meet what they made, a Pyrrhic victory.
Death comes in many guises—all escape
is barred—every feint is met with strength.
Important people entertaining hope
slip on the soap and measure out their length.
Nothing is cheap. The price is all we have,
and nothing less is all we each will give.

Published by Iambs & Trochees

Australian Medea

He posed between his mother and his wife;
a man who’d risen from the working class
to overcome all obstacles and pass
into the upper echelons of life.

His early hardship trained him well for strife
in politics. Promoted from the mass,
he spoke the people’s language, never crass,
but useful as a well-honed butcher's knife.

The woman scorned watched as her TV screen
mocked her with his image. She had made
this man. She thought of what she might have been.
The children she had wanted now were seen
beside a younger wife, proudly displayed.
She telephoned a national magazine.

Published by Iambs & Trochees


When I was five, because the town was small,
I went to school upon my tricycle.
It was bright green and had a silver bell.

My tricycle was stiff and stuck on stones,
on gutters and cracks that webbed the path.
Then it was that I discovered worms.

Worms in puddles, half worms, healed with scars.
Pedalling was hard and the worms
were in-ter-est-ing. Worms became my friends.

School was close but I was slow. One day
I came home when it was too dark to see.
My frantic parents seized me by the arms:

“The police are looking for you” they both said.
I shot under my bed and stayed quite still.
Jailed for looking at worms! I held my breath.

Worms didn’t convince my parents. They believed
some man had dragged me to his den of sin.
They eyed me oddly for weeks afterwards.

By then I had found frost and icicles.

Published by The Raintown Review

The HyperTexts