Friday, December 7, 2012

"Lost Planet" vid

I recently had the good fortune to befriend one of Malaysia's finest guitarists, Az Samad. We decided to collaborate on a poem that means a great deal to me, probably more than any other piece I've written. live from Kuala Lumpur, "Lost Planet."

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Lost Planet by Omar Musa


by Omar Musa

Lost planet-
200 light years from earth.

It's out there somewhere,
somewhere revolving
it sits unsyllabled space.
A flight away
so far
on feathered wings
through nebulae and stellar winds
through falling stars, tinted clouds
and unnamed things.


Last night I built
a rocket ship outta
vodka bottles,
sleeping pill jars,
a broken biro and a half full, red lighter.

I flew so far
and in such darkness,
that time became
a whisper.

I crash landed on a spring day
in a rippling field.
I followed a rose coloured river until
I found a door.
I knocked,
and it was answered by
my first love.
She was as passionate and forgiving as
when we first met,
her flammable kiss set me ablaze
We made love on smouldering sheets.
I was twinned in her eyes,
pinned beneath her limbs
and the swinging weight of wet hair.

It was perfect.

I walked on,
and by and by
saw my father sitting cross legged
beneath a banyan tree,
smiling and without malice.
We played chess and once I captured his king,
we ate durian,
and shared kretek cigarettes.
We spoke of ancestral heroes and water from the moon,
we laughed and

it was perfect.

I bid him farewell and walked towards the ocean.
Where the road met the sea,
I smelled cooking feed
and I saw a woman in a sarong
frying fish.
It was my grandmother,
still very strong and very beautiful
and when I approached she spoke.

Omar, datuk nenek mu dari ombak.
Rumahnya di lautan ini.
Kamu sekarang belayar di lautan, gurun dan langit.
Kata kata mu adalah layar.
Tidak kira berapa jauh kamu mengembara,
jangan lupa asal-usulmu, yang mengalir dalam darahmu.
Kita munkin miskin
tetapi mulia.
Saya tahu kamu boleh bercakap sedikit dalam Bahasa Melayu,
jangan bimbang, jangan bimbang Omar.
kita bukan sahaja berkongsi darah tetapi berkongsi jiwa.

She spoke,
and I understood every word,


Last of all before I left,
I met a young me,
juggling a soccer ball and
still believing in happy endings.
I took him by the shoulders
and told him that things would work out,


As I left in my little rocketship I looked back
and saw the streets crowded
with the lovers lost,
the brothers fallen,
the highway companions who became dreams mislaid,
waving, waving,
like fields of harvest grain.

Lost planet-
200 light years from earth.

Or maybe just a dream away.


Sunday, October 7, 2012


You let love in
like a stray cat outta the rain.

Its paws are dirty /
Its tail waves like a new idea /
It's too small to make the doorframe shake
and too big to fit through the keyhole.

You let it in,
smiling & wary & a little bit scared.

you're twelve again,
hanging up the phone when Suzie's dad 
                                                                       answers it,
stone blossoming in your throat
or eighteen 
when Jamila says "I'm not your type"
when what she really means 
is that you're not hers
or twenty four
kissing Adelina 
under the stone gates of Chinatown
Adelina with her thighs that smile at the moon,
with her headdress of sorrow
or twenty eight
when everything falls to pieces
and you become 
the howl of a dog in a padded cell.
And you're so full of want and ache,
staring into love's leonine eyes,
you realise that maybe it isn't a cat at all - 
it could be a killer whale dressed as one.

Or a rabbit.

you undress and dismantle your limbs 
one by one
arm, leg and wing
and place them in a pile
on the tiles.

picks them up in its teeth,
walks to the door,
looks left and right
then disappears.

You cry for months
until one day
you feel whole once more,
sitting at the window
embroidering stars on the udder of dusk
while your flatmate boils the kettle

would scrape again at your door.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Disappeared Ones

for Jill Meagher

"We have everything to say,
and nothing."

I wrote this line 
at a time of great bewilderment,
when I saw a life taken too early
and sense would not make itself known.

It is a fool's errand 
to try to make sense of the senseless,
or imagine the unimaginable,
I know that,
just as I know that my meagre words 
are but smoke to the wind.

Yet while horror rests briefly on its haunches

I think of the disappeared ones/
the lovely, brave, tremendous souls
You dwell in our memories dream clad,
gilded by sunblur 
and tender melodies.

I think of a daughter I will some day have to tell,

"My darling one,
these streets may not be safe for you -
this world will try to scour the gold 
                                                      from your eyes 
and bury bullets in your grace.
But believe me,
beauty lives here also, and compassion, 
                                                                            and goodness -
May we tip the scales in their favour."

I think of a grieving city
where the sum of our disparate parts
equals a beating heart
that declares 
"If evil exists then so does 
                                                                    the opposite."

I think of a family.

A family.

And I think of you,
beautiful stranger.

Sleep well now,
we will remember you.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

"The Great Displaced" vid + lyrics

The Great Displaced
Omar Musa
for Jess

The boy lights a candle
and faces a perilous horizon.

He pulls on his socks, his boots
and picks seeds from between his teeth.

He will leave before dawn.
His sisters are asleep 
and he will not wake them
because he believes that dreams are fragile 
and shouldn't be disturbed.

The boy is not alone.

He is one of millions
across the broad black beyond,
enacting the ritual of leaving,
the ritual of 

So to the cities they come,
over roads and highways of waves,
where coral reaches up like a migrant 
connecting the stars
 into maps of deliverance.
Suitcases blackened 
by the sweat and smoke of transit cities,
of roasting meat over hot rocks,
the diesel perfume of foreign docks,
they pass memories like bottles of wine.

The great displaced,
starboard side
in waters that know nothing of them,
tasting strange languages and lands
harvesting hope with ashy hands-
the children 
of fractured communities.
The moon 
a sullen orphan 
who guides them to reefs of light 
where progress is the catchcry,
and we are swept towards
at all costs.

Just because there was no gun to your temple
does not mean you were not forced to leave.

Villages and family ties disappear 
then re-appear freshborn and shining in our myths,
daubed on the doorways to ourselves.
The countrysides
become plots for our nostalgia, 
sown from afar, 
flourishing with orchards of memory.
Each tree laden with fruit, 
each fruit a repository of dreams
where real orchards no longer exist.
They are unmapped places
dedicated to everything we miss.

Do we speak too highly of the past?
Were the times not difficult then?

How do we fill the missing spaces?

The boy lights a candle.

He pulls on his boots
and faces a horizon
as heavy 
and perilous 
as chance.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

My not-so-radical speech about poetry

On Wednesday the 18th of April, 2012, I made a speech at the Street Theatre, Canberra, at a public forum about radical ideas and burning issues facing the A.C.T. arts community, at the request of The Childers Group. I had to cut a few things off due to time limits but here is the full speech. Just a few humble words about poetry and young folks from a local scallywag.

My not-so-radical speech about repopularising poetry in Australia

Good evening. I pay respects to the traditional owners of the land, the Ngunnawal people, their elders past and present. We stand on your shoulders.

I speak as a rapper, poet, Queanbeyan boy and a product of the Canberra arts scene. Tonight I want to talk about poetry. What I want to propose is to bring poetry back into public consciousness, make it accessible to young people and re- weave it into the cultural fabric of Australia. I'm not going to beat around the bush- for many years, poetry in Australia has been regarded by most as dusty, wanky and above all, boring and irrelevant. Furthermore, it is often considered a pursuit solely for white, middle aged, middle class people, for academics who like the smell of their own farts. There is also a sense that it is something difficult, sacred and removed. I always found this sad. I constantly try to tell the young people I work with that poetry isn't difficult, it is something natural and within all of us. Editing poetry, or writing good poetry might be hard, but poetry in and of itself is a natural human activity. I know of many countries where poetry is so ingrained in the culture that reciting poetry at a family meal or amongst friends isn't considered strange. I believe a change needed to come to make poetry more accessible to young people and I think that change came in the form of hip hop and slam poetry in Australia.

For those who don't know, a poetry slam is a competitive form of poetry that started in Chicago in the early 1980s to bring poetry "back to the people." Poets (in teams or solo) get 2-3 mins to impress an audience and randomly selected judges with their own words and performances and can win cash prizes, half a bottle of bourbon, respect from their peers, whatever. The point is that they are really fun and dynamic events and are a form growing worldwide and in Australia. I won the Australian Poetry Slam in 2008 and since then have been watching its explosion here. I have seen rappers, bush poets, singers, actors and comedians all go in poetry slams, so it's not restricted to one style. It's a great way of getting people who normally wouldn't write or perform get on stage. It tears poetry out of those ivory towers and puts onto the stage.

As a side note I want to say that I don't think it's the be all and end all of poetry and that Avant-garde and academic poets should be cast into the wilderness, shot at dawn and old poetry books burned. Oftentimes people get defensive and teachers bristle as if by bringing this all up I've said we ought to piss on T.S. Eliot's headstone. All I'm saying is that these forms have given a lot of young people a voice who previously didn't feel as if they had one and is a brilliant access point to poetry. I have seen first hand in schools, youth centres, in parks and on street corners (here and around the world), how liberating and exciting this new found way of expressing oneself has been for young men and women, gay and straight, in the country and city, people with disabilities, and folks of every different background in multicultural Australia. Personally, as an Asian-Australian man with a Muslim background, who can often feel dislocated or unwanted in mainstream Australia, it has been a place where I can express myself with dignity and freedom. It's a joy to see the movement growing.

However, the job is not done, in fact, I think it's only just started. I think there is a shining opportunity in front of us in the A.C.T. that needs to be seized. Many people have got the ball rolling in terms of getting poetry workshops happening in high schools, jails, and youth centres and starting youth slams, including the Centre for Poetics and Justice and Emilie Zoey Baker in Melbourne, the Street University and Miles Merrill in Sydney (among many others). However, we don't have to look outside Canberra to see this in action. We have two well established slams- Traverse Poetry Slam and Bad!Slam!No!Biscuit!- and probably more since I moved away. Will Small, who I believe is here tonight, has just started the first ever A.C.T. wide high school and college slam. In the next few months he will have two slams (one north side and one south side) before a big one at the A.N.U. that will also involve uni students, supported by A.N.U. student equity. It is in its fledgling stages and of course requires more funding and support.

I believe this is a brilliant start to what could be a whole movement where every few weeks kids can go to a poetry slam, prepare for it and then rock out in front of their peers. For example, I know that in the U.S.A. and in Europe at big high school slams they are often held in a hall or basketball court, with the crowd cheering for their favourite poets. I think that is pretty cool and envision a time in Australia where this is possible. Not only are slams a great way for young people to express themselves, but to meet others from different parts of Canberra, from public and private schools. I remember when I did debating in high school my mum driving me from Queanbeyan to the wilds of Belco and Tuggers to debate, weekly. I envision a similar thing for poetry in the A.C.T, but bigger and cooler.

What I am saying is not radical- there are dozens of others working tirelessly around Australia to do similar things but I try at any opportunity to bring light to poetry and to these issues. Imagine if we had a broader national structure of an Australia wide youth slam where Queanbeyan High or Lake G competes against schools from Sydney, the N.T. or W.A. I think that in the A.C.T. we have a unique opportunity to be a leader in this area, where we foster a culture where young people are encouraged to be expressive, confident, questioning and creative, and people of all backgrounds, sexual orientations and genders are are invited to tell their stories and partake in the joy of writing and performing. It will go a small way to encouraging similar things in broader Australian society- a better understanding of ourselves and others. So, here we are on the cusp of something massive. I say with a bit of vision, a bit of persistence and a bit of cash, this is not out of our reach.

Omar Musa, 2012

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Lyrics for "Fireflies"

She said,
"as a child I lived in the mountains,
I would collect fireflies in a jar and use the light to read my books."
I said,
"what a beautiful world it is."
She said "When I return to the mountains now there are no fireflies left,"
and I said "what a heartbreaking world it is."

So when our heroes grow old and our dreamers go mad.
When our songbirds go silent and fires burn on each corner-
I live for the little wins.
When there are footsteps in the hallway
and we don't know whose they are-
lover or torturer,
whether assassin or ally-
I live for the little wins.
When there are hands on ears and tape over mouths,
when I no longer know if I prefer to be awake or asleep,
the silence of the undertow or the breaking of waves on a reef.
When they promise us everything
and treat us like nothing,
I live for the little wins.

Like eating a meal and realising it's exactly what you wanted.
Like finding out mangoes are 9 bucks a box.
Like a surprise email that makes your day,
the first sip of water after a daylong fast,
the first line after writer's block,
like a student who can barely spell her name
but pens the perfect line.

I live for the things I'm ready to die for,
I stand for the things for which I'm ready to fall.
We all promise that to ourselves sometimes-
We, the people, most fragile of all.
We, the people, who drag nets to the shore
hoping to find diamond rings in the guts of fish or pearls in the bellies of dragons.
We, the men and the women, standing inches from screens
that scream at us to gain funds and lose weight.
We, the seething mass of darlings and friends,
rapists, racists and killers of men,
romper stompers, heroes, fashionistas and feminists,
protestors who swing their bats at the system
hoping the shards form mosaics
lovers who swing for the fences.

This for the survivors, the outcasts,
the eccentrics who never let coolness whitewash their madness.
For the kids on the mish, on the pavements, the basements,
in the flats and in the schoolyards.
They will treat your voice like a crime for which you have no alibi,
so make it a crime of passion,
raise it at their eyes,
shoplift time,
pick pocket perseverance
from the haters and leave the rest behind,
speak with purpose
teeth brighter than a city's spine.

Little win though it may be,
who knows?
someday, one day the fireflies may return.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


My new poetry video. I hope you like it.