Kenneth Slessor

Here you will find the Poem Metempsychosis of poet Kenneth Slessor


SUDDENLY to become John Benbow, walking down William Street 
With a tin trunk and a five-pound note, looking for a place to eat, 
And a peajacket the colour of a shark's behind 
That a Jew might buy in the morning. . . . 
To fry potatoes (God save us!) if you feel inclined, 
Or to kiss the landlady's daughter, and no one mind, 
In a peel-papered bedroom with a whistling jet 
And a picture of the Holy Virgin. . . . 
Wake in a shaggy bale of blankets with a fished-up cigarette, 
Picking over the 'Turfbird's Tattle' for a Saturday morning bet, 
With a bottle in the wardrobe easy to reach 
And a blast of onions from the landing. . . . 
Tattooed with foreign ladies' tokens, a heart and dagger each, 
In places that make the delicate female inquirer screech, 
And over a chest smoky with gunpowder-blue? 
Behold!?a mermaid piping through a coach-horn! 
Banjo-playing, firing off guns, and other momentous things to do, 
Such as blowing through peashooters at hawkers to improve the view? 
Suddenly paid-off and forgotten in Woolloomooloo. . . . 
Suddenly to become John Benbow. . . .