Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Dave Ellison and David Shepherd


2 Melbourne Writers . . .

photo by dave ellison


photo by vera di campli san vito

DAVID SHEPHERD el snoddograssi

photo by Yonni Andre

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To Thee Azure Skye


Who moved a stormwind
to stir the trees
who scattered blossom
through centuries
who shook the forest
who stole through golden leaves?

Who drew from bamboo
a hollow moan
who kissed the headstones
of empires gone
who shook the forest
who stole through golden leaves?

Throughout the greenwood
the golden leaves
throughout the power
that moved our destiny
all the forest echoed
Eternity, Eternity

Who brought the wild geese
till time must sleep
who dried the teardrop
on history’s cheek
who shook the forest
who stole through golden leaves?

Throughout the greenwood
the golden leaves
throughout the power
that moved our destiny
who shook the forest
who stole through golden leaves?
our Eternity


One kite
In winter branches
One soul
Inside the overcoat



Down ruined hallways
Of manic dreams
Through earthly prisons
That bring me to my knees
The night is long
Too long for worry
Your precious love
Will set me free

By shadowed townscapes
Where captors prowl
In timeworn caverns
As crying tries the hours

Uncommon nightmares
And darkened stars
But you still whisper
Of life beyond these bars
The night is long
Too long for worry
Your precious love
Will set me free


Shadows pass
Along the wall
Along the wall
They pass
The shadows
Of us all



I am in exile from the love
For love I surely miss
I am in exile from the love
Too far to know her kiss

I am in exile from the one
The one of heaven’s bliss
I am in exile from the one
For there my brother is

I am in exile from my soul
So trapped inside the mist
I am in exile from my soul
And terrible is this



You go
to greet the moment
may the Moment
be a friend

You walk
the way so windblown
may the Way
help you bend

You live
and bring compassion
may Compassion
let you mend

You move
towards an answer
may the Answer
greet you then.

Dave Ellison

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Love Sick Fool

Whenever I drink
From the creek
Which flows down the valley
From up there
Where you are now
I dream the tricklings
Cupped in my cracked hands
May have caressed
Your bare bathing body
And I savour every drop
Like mad nectar.

Whenever I see a gilded leaf
Glittering on the gliding current
I imagine
It may have been tangled
In your tossed hair
Up there
When you are now
And I covet it
Like Cortez did the Aztec’s gold.

Whenever the north wind
Strokes my fractured face
As it blows down
From up there
Where you are now
I smell the perfume
Of your secretly scented skin
And I inhale deeply
Like an obsessed Opium addict.

Whenever I lie in bed
Silently staring
At the moon’s sullen glow
I know
You are too
And I wish I was
Up there
Where you are now
To see its real splendour
Reflected in your night-time
Brown mirror eyes
Like Diana’s dazzling disc
Suspended in amber


Abracadabra Mist

I climbed that precarious
Red rock clay staircase
Shrouded tunnel of green
Like a pessimistic peon pilgrim
Lumbering up the path to Delphi
Just to have a gig
At the Oracle.

She lives like a lone sadhu
In her ethereal abode
Surrounded by Shiva’s sacred serpents
Like some minor avataric incarnation
Perhaps of Durgha
Brandishing a dangerous and deadly weapon
In each of her ten hands
Anxiously awaiting to smote
The immanent demons

Or Kali
The Dark One
Her Moorish skin
Burning black as night
Without moon
Flame red pointed tongue
Stabbing the air
And anything else
That happens to be there.

She doesn’t wear
The severed skulls of her vanquished
Around her Nubile neck
She bleaches
And arranges them
In her inner sanctum
To admire later
At her leisure
In private semi-darkness.

As the doubtful Delphine
She inhales the fumes
From her mystic pit
Through an Onyx pipe
A cancer catching catheter tube
Hanging from her crooked grin
Like a lost licorice stick.

Sez she’s an old Crone
But this Gorgon turns men into mud
Not stone
And she’s still not sure why
Her spurious spells go awry
Simultaneously spitting
Barbs and regards
Smiling and scowling
With the odd menacing grimace
Her Obsidian eyes
Cut like dull Aztec razor blades
Yet radiate dark gentle secrets.

Reclining on smooth silk
She oozes
An invisible Abracadabra mist
An ancient pheromone
Cunningly concocted
With something smuggled in from the East
Designed to melt the marrow
Of mere men’s malleable bones.

Now I climb
That steep incline
Again and again
Not to have a gig at the Oracle
She ain’t there
Only that moot minor Devi
Her Lila
Her magic mumble
And that intoxicating Abracadabra mist
She wears
Around her.

april. 2005.

Terania In Black

In the late dark night
As black as the grave
I sat
On the stone cold
Creeping crypt slab
Stencilled across Terania Creek.

The haunted shadows
Of dead silhouetted trees
Pointed their cadaver fingers
At the black new moon
And the stars hid their splendour
In the funereal folds
Of the leaden sky’s
Vast velvet shroud.

Within the thick Indian ink ether
The sound of gushing water
Rushing through the murky vault
Below me
Chattering and guttering
Conjured up the harmony
Of an unknown esoteric cannon

In the blackness
My blind eye
Caught the culprits
Responsible for this arcane spell

An Onyx petrified pyre
Of a thousand Bunjulung bodies
A concealed chorus
Of discarnate voices
Babbling and blathering
A mesmerizing magical hymn
Of endless ecstatic rhyme
Continually chanted
Since time immemorial

Mere syllables cannot imitate
This sacred secret song
It’s as if the ancient tongue of Babel
Was being uttered for the very first time
Only to be confounded
By the occult dialect
Of El Shaddai’s
Eternally staunch stones
Their bare bloated bolder bellies
Worn and washed away
By the immortal embrace
Pressing their porus porcelain skins
Into this soulful swirling soup
Roiling and bubbling through the glad gloom
In a liturgy of selfless love

This vibrant vital liquid
Echoing the very essence
Of the relentless rain
The long lost sap tears
Of the tallest trees
Their rotting rusty roots
Sliding into the absinthe abyss
Incessantly singing
The perfect poetry
Of time passing

And the clock stopped
In the late dark night
As black as the grave
And I still sat
On the stone cold crypt slab
Stencilled across Terania Creek
Like a cancelled crustacean.

That Screaming Silence

That screaming silence
in a barbed-wire cage
when someone pulls a shiv
sinking it in
with quiet rage.

That screaming silence
after ringing a familiar door bell
of a house which seems empty
but you really can't tell.

That screaming silence
at night
across an empty back lot
after the crack and echo
of an unwarranted pistol shot.

That screaming silence
after the last death rattle
when your mate gives up
his life verses death battle.

That screaming silence
after the final bell's toll
at the funeral in the rain
feeling fucked and fucking cold.

That screaming silence
alone in bed at night
wide awake after the nightmare
sweating in fright.

That screaming silence
in my own bottomless ears
when I ponder my precarious life
and the soundtrack just disappears…

winter. 2002

The Saints of Sloth

We pass the time
in the lazy afternoon
in June
waiting for the monsoon
chasing ancient wisps
with silver tubes
gathering the sacred slithers
of soft, grey smoke
behind blue Bombay walls
under black plastic
bicycle-tyred roofs
surrounded by brown match-stick men
peddling their rickshaws in circles
creating rings of soft brown dust
soft, sweet brown
brown, red horned cows
brown trunked, red-circled trees
replete with fresh orange garlands
brown crumbling temples
Ganesh, the Remover of Obstacles
still guarding the front steps
painted red
glowing red
in the sunset
like the match
burning my thumb
under the foil
of this selfish Arti tray
burning brown incense
offered to self
by self
for self
and the soft grey clouds
scatter across the warm sky
like the halos of soft grey smoke
now lingering above us
canonising us
the saints of sloth
we pass the time
in the lazy afternoon
in June
waiting for the monsoon.




My earthly events and inner happenings? I only know part of what’s really going on. But some of the script goes like this: I was born in 1953 and have lived near the Maribyrnong River since then (with only brief travels, and holidays by Port Phillip Bay). David Stewart, the great Melbourne devotional poet, once told me, ‘It’s your homeland.’ People who grow up in this area are notoriously reluctant to leave. There’s an inner connection with the land that’s partly conscious, but definitely felt. There’s no substitute for walking through the autumn leaves of your homeland.

One very important event occurred in 1966. I was given a Gideons International New Testament of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (with Psalms and Proverbs), 1965 edition. I still have it, with my pencil annotations. I was a teenage mystic, and drawn to creativity. Loved surrealism, Samuel Beckett etc. I thought, this is the stuff for me. Thankfully, I was in the high school jug band, which planted musical seeds in my imagination. Shine On Harvest Moon, up inna skyyyy! The high school crew split to the four winds.

Headed off to study Arts at university in 1972, during the student rebellion. Experienced many inner challenges. Probably learnt more from poking around the bookshop and library than from my studies. I wasn’t too flash a student, although I had some success. Seemed to spend more time playing my saxophone and reading the Tao Te Ching / Lao Tzu (in the Penguin edition, c1963). Read some of the Beats.

Joined local band Atilla and the Panelbeaters, and played the pubs and clubs from 1979-1984. We had a faithful audience of characters who were our deepest inspiration. (A couple of Atilla and the Panelbeaters songs can be found on YouTube. Craig Horne currently sings in The Hornets, and is the author of two novels: Bureaucracy Blues, 1995 and Alpha Jerk, 1999).

I work in libraries, partly because, according to legend, Lao Tzu was a librarian. If it was good enough for him …

Went out with a goddess. Broke my will, but what a thrill! Read more of the Beats.

I was invited to a poetry reading in Fitzroy at the Provincial Hotel in 1987. It was a revelation. Subsequently attended readings in various Fitzroy ‘watering-holes’. Experienced Fitzroy as a zone where the screen of the material world cracked a little, and the heart glimpsed a pervasive spirit. Met many poets in love with voice and page. Was drawn to the devotional poets who provided my real education. Read Burning Illusion / David Stewart, 1988, and the scriptures of Meher Baba, including Stay With God / Francis Brabazon with illustrations by John Parry (in the Paul Smith edition, 1990). Was inspired to travel overseas by the call of the spirit. Did a couple of chap-books of my writings: Urbane Mysticism, 1990 (with illustrations by Karl Gallagher and calligraphy by David Stewart. UM is about my homeland). And: Full Moon, King Tide, 1997. Only made a few dozen photocopies, but felt as if I’d had my say!

My friend, the poet Barry Scott, edited and published New and Rediscovered / Vicki Viidikas, 2010. A review in The Age (Melbourne) described her as, ‘our Kerouac.’ I feel the echoes of Vicki’s passing, and David Stewart’s mysterious absence. Once had the privilege of assisting Vicki with editing some of David’s work. She was the only person I saw him defer to, such was her artistic wisdom and prodigious intellect. Both were prophets of a new dispensation of spirit.

I’ve been privileged to be a carer since 1995.

I miss a lot of people: those still alive here, as well as those on the other side. They have enriched my life and maybe knocked a few rough edges off me. Bless the whole scurvy crew. Thanks to Vera Di Campli San Vito for assistance with editing.

§ δ


I was born in 1949 above my ole man’s Aquarist’s shop in between Liverpool and Manchester on the River Mersey, the dirtiest river in England.
In 1961 I was sailing through the Suez Canal aboard the S.S. Fairsea with five thousand other emigrants to Australia. When we finally arrived in Melbourne it was January, 100 degrees in the shade with blow flies the size of lobsters.

I won a scholorship to Christian Brothers College, St Kilda , which had the highest Matriculation rate in Melb - more than Melbourne Grammer. I bribed my parents into letting me leave school to go to work when I was 16 on the proviso I continued to study at night school. I bought a guitar and went to Brash’s Music School. I formed a band playing 3 chord R & B covers. We did a couple of gigs and I left after one too many ‘battle of the egos’. The band went on to become ‘The Last Straws’ and had a couple of top 40 hits. I started full time at the clothing factory I’d been working at after school, on week-ends and during holidays for years. To keep my side of the night school bargain with my parents I enrolled at Taylor’s Business College in Flinders Lane. Across the road was ‘The Star Theatrette’ - the only cinema in Melbourne that showed 16mm European films with subtitles. I spent more time at ‘The Star’ than at Taylor’s and learned a lot about French and Italian New Wave films.

A friend of the ole mans offered me a job at his Lithographic plate-making firm I jumped at it. After about 12 months I was Camera-operating, developing and re-touching photos and burning plates. Along with some friends I moved into an old house in Carlton just up the road from The Prince Alfred Hotel and every night after the bar closed we’d go back to our place and continue drinking. The only real drugs we took were ‘Purple Hearts’, ‘Dexies’ and ‘Bennies’ (amphetamines) which enabled us to stay awake all week-end and drink. We listened to The Fugs (first time I’d ever heard of Ginsberg), The Mothers of Invention, Velvet Underground, Jefferson Airplane, Hendrix and all the good English R&B. In 1970, I went to Australia’s first outdoor music festival at Ourimbah in N.S.W. where I first smoked pot, which probably saved my liver (and my life). If one smoked pot - one didn’t drink - it was uncool. Music festivals became a regular thing and where I met a whole new crew and we dropped acid and started shooting up Morphine. I fell in love with Rae, a young cocaine blonde with blue kaleidoscope eyes. Just a little over 9 months later (we calculated it as a particular lunch-hour quickie) we had a baby, Zoë. I went to my first poetry reading in Fitzroy one night and someone read ‘Howl’ I remembered Ginsberg from the Fugs but ‘Howl’ blew me away. It was the first time a poem had done that to me and I started writing.

In prison I read ’Naked Lunch’ more times than I care to remember in the bluestone winter of 1975. I was freezing to death in the ‘D’ Division yards of ‘Pentridge’ doing cold turkey waiting to be classified to somewhere or other to begin serving an 18 month sentence for breaking into a few chemist shops and stealing their narcotics. Enough opiates to last for months. If I’d known then that ‘Naked Lunch’ was randomly edited it might have made it a little easier to read! At that time there weren’t many junkies in prison and the few there were treated like paedophiles. It was shear masochism reading and rereading a book about drugs but I figured for an old, queer junkie, probably the same age as my ole man this guy was cool. When I got out I read ’Junkie’ and ‘Nova Express’ and some Jean Genet stuff and it just vindicated my lifestyle. The reasoning went – if Stones and Bob Dylan and Burroughs are using it, it must be a cool drug obviously conductive to creativity. Even Edgar Allen Poe was a laudanum addict! I started writing and burning poetry with a vengeance.

Before my incarceration I had been a ‘client’ of a drug referral centre in Carlton called Buoyancy. It was more of a meeting place for junkies and other deadbeats. A place where transients could have their mail sent to, see the doctor or get legal advice. It operated on the pretext that drug addiction was a medical problem and that crime was just a side effect. June Bryant ran the place and she got to hear so many humorous anecdotes and stories she posed the idea of making a film about our nefarious activities in the Melbourne narcotics scene. A friend of mine, John Hooper, whose sister was married to film director Bert Deling, got him interested. John and I wrote the whole story, based on fact, in 3 days. Bert liked it, submitted it to the A.F.I. (Australian Film Institute) for a development grant and the cult classic ’Pure Shit’ was born.

We went to The Pram Factory and La Mama in Carlton to see plays and eyeball actors. We saw ‘The Year of Lacertis’ a play directed by Phil Motherwell, at La Mama and almost the whole cast were junkies! We’d hit pay dirt! Gallagher was in the play but we didn’t use him because he didn’t shoot junk – we wanted real junkies who would take real drugs in the movie!

I met people like Lindzee Smith and Barry Dickins and Helen Garner whose book ‘Monkey Grip’ was written during and about that period. I discovered a whole new world of people who were, to my mind, real bohemians. Many in the Carlton scene used junk and were in the film (some now wish they hadn’t been) the title was banned by the censors and was released as Pure S***! We thought that was pretty ridiculous but good publicity. I worked on the film from script to mix. I was enthralled by the film-making process and wanted to make more movies so I applied for a place in the most avant guard art school in Melbourne at the time (and for ever after), Preston Institute of Technology. I got in on the strength of a poem and my involvement in ‘Pure Shit’. Bert Deling was the new film lecturer! Motherwell and Gallagher were already there as ‘mature age students.’ Carlton/Fitzroy was the centre of the universe back then. Theatre, music, writing, painting & drugs - the joint was really pumping!

I had just finished the script for a short 16mm experimental film, ‘The Edge’ which was going to be my directorial debut. Instead, I got the 18 month sentence on the morning of my first production meeting. On account of my dark room experience I was classified directly to the Print Shop in ‘A’ Division developing and printing mug shots. It was arguably the best job in Pentridge. When that red light was on not even the Governor himself could enter MY dark room! After another court case I got 4 years with an 18 month minimum which wasn’t bad for a stick-up. With good behaviour and remission I was out in 2 years and back at Art School with a brand new script, ‘Mike’s Blood’ the story of a guy who goes to bed one night and wakes up next morning as a woman. It was based on my bizarre gaol experience of becoming a sex object (I WAS only 26 and a damn fine looking young man at that). But I was very lucky in Pentridge, and although I knew only a few heavies they were the right ones. They protected me and once I started doing B&W blow-ups of their kids from ratty snapshots - I was SWEET. It was also highly illegal which meant I had DASH! I was untouchable by proxy. With my job and my connections I led a charmed life.

Then, I directed Terror Lostralis which was nominated for best short film in the 1980 A.F.I. Film Awards. Mitchell Faircloth wrote the script and acted in it. Mitchell and I created a cabaret act called ‘Dr Cloth, The Most Intelligent Man On Earth and Douglas, The Living Experiment.’ It was completely different from anything anyone else was doing. We were even on ‘The Mike Walsh Show” and ‘Night-Moves’ I started a stand-up comedy routine, a character called Yonny Stone, a knockabout crim, just out of gaol who spoke in rhyming slang. Then a group of us formed ‘Punter 2 Punter’ a comedy racing/tipping radio show on 3RRR. We were the top rating show for years then we got snapped up by 3XY where we actually made MONEY! We did Melbourne Cup Specials on A.B.C. 2 for a few years. I made some small films/videos for a one man show I directed for Tony Rickards at the Universal Theatre. I was also acting in plays with Motherwell and Lindzee Smith and doing lights and sound for cabaret shows, plays and bands. I was still writing poetry (and burning most of it) and film scripts that would never be made. I gave up comedy and read poetry instead.

Late 1994 I travelled around India for 12 months which completely changed my life. Back in Melbourne I was offered a job as a Disability Students Tutor at a technical college for about 8 years (unqualified but bullshitted my way through).

In 2003 I left Melbourne to get away from the junk scene. I stopped using. I fell in love with a bush-babe in northern N.S.W. and lived in a Tee Pee in the rainforest for 3 amazing years. Seven years later I’m back in Melbourne. My daughter, Zoë has her own six year old daughter, Lily, which makes me a gramme-pah.
My blogsite: 

the original movie poster

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An outstanding Australian writer
Vicki Viidikas born 1948 died 1998

Published by Transit Lounge 2010

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American Catfish McDaris's latest chapbook.

cover painting by karl gallagher.

Published by leah angstman's propaganda press.

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Anonymous said...

David Shepherd is ground breaking poet who seems to know what lifes about.

Anonymous said...

Having read and listened to David Shepherd read, I never realised he could be so sensitive and sentimental at the same time.

snodgrass said...

Great to see your painting on Catfish's book. Good one! Great site Karlos and thanks for having me on. I always said you were a good bloke.