Born: Painesville, Ohio, USA, in 1947. He moved to Australia in 1979, becoming a citizen in 2004. He is known internationally for the most successful song in Australian music history, Shaddap You Face, Number One on the pop charts in fifteen countries still holding the record for the largest selling single in Australian music history for 34 years.
Over the past twenty years he has achieved award-winning recognition as songwriter, composer, poet, photographer and essayist. His photographs have been commissioned across a wide arc from Spinifex Feminist Press to licensed to Blundstone Boots. He set fifteen poems of C.P Cavafy to music and works by Sappho, Sylvia Plath, Les Murray, Ali Cobby Eckermann and others. His one hour self-orchestrated choral oratorio Joan on Fire was performed twice by the Melbourne Chamber Orchestra and Chorelation Choir.
His poetry appears in Best Australian Poems 2014, was shortlisted for both the Newcastle Poetry Prize 2014 and the Canberra Vice Chancellor’s Poetry Prize 2014 . He won the Launceston Poetry Cup, at the 25th Tasmanian Poetry Festival. He has poetry, essays, song-lyrics and photographs published in Monthly, Southerly, Sotto, The Canberra Times, PEN MELBOURNE (in English/Arabic translation and English/Vietnamese translation), Best of Quadrant 2001-2010, Australian Love Poems, Meanjin, Etchings, Overland, Cordite, Journey, Carmenta, Best of Vine Leaves, Eye to the Telescope, Stars Like Sand, Best of Little Raven, Contrappasso, Voltage (USA), Not Shut Up (UK), Tupelo Quarterly (USA) and Antipodes (USA).
His website is joedolce.net

BACH BLIND

Short-sighted since childhood dusk to dawn copying scores
by lamplight by poor light hand cramped tireless and prolific
grown old his vision worsening and he wanted to go on
serving God parapetetic English doctor Chevalier Taylor
specialist and oculist reknown ophthalmiater
the operation called couching not complicated nor expensive
no guarantee lie on your back
strapped to leather bench head in restraint
quickly deftly thick sharply pointed needle
jabbed into eye probing slightly reaching lens
pushing downward quickly
into vitreous jelly with only whisky to numb pain
three men required to restrain thrashing
afterwards wound bathed in Peruvian balsalm
warm water eye fomented with spirituous camphire
bandage replaced by patch eat lightly with gentle evacuations
Bach recovered his eyesight fully
a few days later a second operation with
no good result attributed to advanced condition
bottom was found to be defective
a paralytic disorder – had he come earlier
and so forth
the eyesight deteriorated quickly he woke up one morning in darkness
after that spent hours days just sitting in a darkened room
composing in his head remembering light

THE GOLDFISHES IN DAD’S BAG

after Adamson, in the manner of Malley

These fishes are floating in
mirror-polished bowls and yogurt boxes
rubber-banded with plastic wrap they
are barbed by bird-pecked fishermen for bait
and as crunchy bites for peckish matriarchs
in faux-leafed bathtubs the O mouths faint with bubbles
a goldfish with a hooked lip
was wrapped in a butcher paper poem written by a slender bard
back in the twentieth century found at the bottom
of a squeaky wheelie bin filled with oyster shells
it suffocated along with the headless market mackerel
in dad’s damn pallid fish fryer that arvo tails and chips
dim sums and strips fry and as an aviary of battery chooks squawk
into the ears of true poetry lovers the mouths of goldfish suck
the ones who cannot read also suck
themselves inarticulate the crawly creepies obnoxious with gibberish
in bed with the ones who eat lamingtons
and walk golf silver-haired fishermen chaw
birdseed as roll-your-own students of the wannabe beatniks choke
on clag of burnt chips and potato cake
we must eat SOMETHING or starve swallowing
the carassius auratus auratus whole as our dottering dad
steps off the pier.

SEXY TRASH

She waited at her regular haunt
envy-green streetlight cheap and taut
body hugging pvc by Gautier
36 – 36 – 36 all the way
wheels by Blahnik just a hint of empty
Chanel Number 5 Earl Grey tea
bio-degradable dishwashing jex
and five day old chicken necks
she was ripe for some Thing.
she was ready for her Big King
it wasn’t long before he noticed her chassis
pulling up to her curb top-light flashing
staring rudely at her pout
at all her good bits spilling out
she exhaled a nasty breath of rind
of potato peel and coffee grind
he liked rough trade
he liked her kind
full service? she winked
showing some melon
he was expressionless unshaven surly
what the hellen,
why not? it was still early
Greek? he asked
she bent over giving him a glimpse of ash
of op-shop bling
and her yellow plastic
garbage bag tie g-string
Greek Lebanese take-away
I even do Colonel Saunders
his mind watered
and his mouth began to wander
daddy anything you say or ask
she reeked of botulism
he put on his facemask
he deftly extended the massive prong
and took her from behind like the Son of Kong
she didn’t resist
locked a tight fit
an orphan discovering
a lost Lego bit
he held her confidently without care
and lifted her high into the fetid air
with a backend just like a compacter
she liked it how he gently stacked her
she rode him freaky a mechanical cow
in need of an oil job from stern to bow
he shook her apart like an owl with a rabbit
she had a garbage mouth on her
and she let him have it.
spank me daddy
let’s wake the neighbourhood
they were so made for each other
it was so dirty and good.

ON THAT BEACH

The old photo’s
slightly out of focus
you’re standing barefoot
in sand grains
warm between your toes
long bare legs rise up
sixteen year old thighs
to short check pants
bunched tightly
around peach sweet hips
your hidden hands are on your waist
elbows thrown back
like wings, your breasts
and stomach
concealed in angora
hugging erotically
every tender bit
I’ve known over the years
over thirty years
I’ve explored the heat
and moisture of your skin
your brown hair
is long and young
and windblown drifting
across the slightly
out of focus eyes
looking down
smiling slightly now
confident of yourself
full and ripe
in splendid girlhood
eros flying out
like the sun
burning over you
there on a sepia beach
so long ago
before I ever met you
you’re smiling I think
because you (possibly) knew somehow
that one day
I’d be looking
at you
in this old photo
longing for you
and feeling all the same eros
in my body
looking at your beautiful youth
experiencing all the same sensations now
that you felt back there
in girlhood
on that beach.

FUCKING AUSTRIA

Honest-to-god village if one goes looking
just north of Salzburg rhymes with booking
the people of Focko first settled the land
named for a Bavarian nobleman
current population a hundred and three
in thirty-two houses the town signs read
Welcome to Fucking
often stolen by tourists when no one’s looking
this the only crime ever reported in town
prevents city taxes from going down
the new video cameras installed undercover
discourage young people from filming each other
doing you-know-what in front of these signs
punishable now by penalty and fines
but Germans are legend for the odd town name
tour buses roll through bringing fortune fame
even Juergen Stoll right next to the bank
runs a popular guest house in the Burgh of Wank
the brewery appealed won rights to sell
a pale German lager called Fucking Hell
and the town’s probably known (when fingering are poking)
for its Kidding, its Idiot, its Oath and its Joking.

VAN GOGH FREE RANGE

Dr Felix Rey patched the coup
with the portrait of himself he hated
barricading fox frost light
no one remembers if it faced inwards or out
fat brown bantams pecked
pointillist jabbing flecks
cobalt carmine mauve grit
bright in the crop to help with grind
when they pocked the paint did they imagine
an Impressionist bell treat?
after too much absinthe and whores
the red-headed artist locked himself
in the chicken house muttering
if I am worth anything later I am worth something now
dreaming of free-range fields night-poked stars
for wheat is wheat even if people think it is a grass in the beginning
a petition by thirty townsfolk eventually penned
Fou-Roux in Saint Paul-de-Mausole sanatorium
if there had been a gypsy among them
how many of these poor would have jostled
each other to feather up beside
Dr Felix Rey lying there on his side
in that wooden roost gallery?

SKETCH

The sketch was done when
we were both much younger
friends commented on the uncanny
accuracy I achieved his eyes clear and
ready to receive Light his hair
curled and soft on his neck before
it became marred with blood
lips moist full and ripe
to speak the Word he would soon be given

now I am old and they bless
my old friend as The Last Prophet
it is no longer possible by Law
to depict him in any way

still I have this early sketch
friends said it was an accurate likeness
I can never show it to anyone now
Followers would destroy both it and me
what shall become of it?

I will roll it carefully
wrap it in tiraz cloth
appeal to the King of Cockroaches
O Kabi:kaj do not eat this paper
and seal it in a sturdy Meccan urn

perhaps one day after I have entered Paradise
someone will find it
in a more generous time
when it is no longer forbidden
to gaze upon His image.

SKETCH
(Translated into the Arabic by Majid Shokor)

Y
I

***

Notes on the poems:

BACH BLIND was previously published in Antipodes (USA)
THE GOLDFISHES IN DAD’S BAG is published here for the first time.
SEXY TRASH was previously published in Hatbox
ON THAT BEACH was previously published in Hatbox
FUCKING AUSTRIA is published here for the first time.
VAN GOGH FREE RANGE is published here for the first time.
SKETCH was previously published in Quadrant by Les Murray.

My sincere thanks to Joe for sending these amazing poems and allowing me to publish them on here.

One thought on “Joe Dolce

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