Poetry: Real and Unreal by Stephen House

real and unreal  
"real and unreal" is the title poem of Stephen House's chapbook of poetry of the same name, published by, in case of emergency press, Australia. 
with you:
in your real world of calm content

we walk along beaches
let rain drench us
feel sun warm us
become detached from time and need
we sit in cafes
drink black coffee
share what we will
keep what we choose to hold inside

we wander in parks
watch ducks with ducklings
feed possums with apple
let beaks and paws touch our skin
we drive into the desert
live in a tent
spend hours in silence
read old newspapers retrieved from bins

we hold hands gently
let tears fall freely
laugh at life
create unreal stories and make them real

in my unreal world of anything goes

i fall into drinking
slide around in night-clubs
dance like a crazy-man 
aim to get beaten up and thrown out

i walk in the wilderness 
sleep in shelters i build
practise yoga at dawn
chant in tune to the moon and sun

i collect rubbish from coastlines
make mountains to reach high
worship them as Gods
appeal to them for advice and help

i take flights to foreign countries
cruise trade on phone apps
have sex with handsome men 
don’t stop until satisfied and exhausted    

i live on city streets 
play with anyone i feel like  
perform tricks on command
sing songs by request if i know the words

i travel to india
camp by Mother Ganga
chant Om Namah Shivaya 
bathe in our river three times each day

i close myself up in hotel rooms
write poems about you
laugh in verse and cry in rhyme 
take real stories and make them unreal

and you have two worlds too

with me:
in my real world of calm content

in your unreal world of anything goes

you and me are our reality
apart or together

real and unreal

Bio: Stephen House has won many awards and nominations as a poet, playwright and actor, including two Australian Writer’s Guild Awgie Awards, and a Greenroom Best Actor nomination. He has had 20 plays produced, many of them commissioned. He’s received international literature residencies from The Australia Council and Asialink. His chapbook “real and unreal” was published by ICOE Press. His next book is out soon. His poetry is published often, and he performs his acclaimed monologues widely. 

3 poems previously published from Stephen House


“i say no” published by The Freedom Review India / commended for Tom Collins Poetry Prize / Winner Goolwa Poetry Cup Australia

“where and when” published by Australian Poetry Journal “bar games (and survival)” published by The Freedom Review India / Winner Goolwa Poetry Cup Australia / adapted excerpt from poet’s stage play “Almost Face To Face” published by Australian Plays

i say no

my shabby room is mine for fifty bucks a week
not far from the beach 
away from the main road
the neighbours all seem cool
indonesian lady-boy 
on the game next door
asks me if i’m working from my room
i say no 
the guys that come and go 
are for recreational fun 
though anything can happen when i’m broke

old aussie surfer 
once well known
on the other side of my room 
asks me if i surf
i say no 
i used to
i now do yoga and run and swim
but i might pick up a board again 
the waves down there look awesome

dutch painter upstairs 
functioning ok for an alcoholic 
asks me if i paint
i say no
i’m a writer and a wanderer  
though i used to dabble in oils
he asks me if i drink
i say no 
i use to heavily 
but only when i was painting

handsome filipino guy 
two doors down 
asks me if i’m looking for a relationship
i say no
i have one of those somewhere else
i’m into hook ups with nameless strangers
and fun-buddies are ok too 

french ice addict 
covered in tatts
across the path from me
asks me if i’m wired when my lights are on all night
i say no 
i’m straight and sober usually 
writing poems until dawn
my drug of choice is strong black coffee
i quit smoking weed in asia

i like my shabby room and life
with the international crowd all around
who are friendly and fascinating 
and share some common interests and points of view 
the big green sea only five minutes away
when i need to be alone and free

and the handsome filipino isn’t only into relationships
i discovered late last night 
when he dropped by my shabby room
while the others nearby in their shabby rooms
did whatever they do

where and when 

i’m standing alone in a café 
no one is serving

out the back dishes clatter 
someone coughs

i wait
check face book
ring a small brass bell
with a tinny tinkle

a guy appears 
stands on the other side of the counter
facing me

brown eyes 
strong hands 
jagged forehead scar

i know him from sex 

once i think 
maybe twice 

i’m not sure where and when

i order a long black
he looks at me
man on man gaze 

i smile
we drift into whatever it was 

our hands touch as i pass him two coins

he winks
we fall into whatever it is 

i remember where and when

bar games (and survival)

he has a circle around him at one end of the bar
i have one around me (where i stand) at the other end
we're not a bad team (him and i)
our circles have formed for different reasons
his because they all want him
(or have had him before) 
and mine because several of them recognized me
from my poetry performance (outside the train station)
earlier tonight
my words were appreciated by most of them
and here and now i’ve become a (minor) front bar celebrity
and one shouldn’t ever look a gift-horse in the mouth
and the gift-horse (happening) is free double vodkas (coming on strong)
i start another story about performing in a theatre
in brisbane (true) which drifts into a yarn about a kangaroo
getting into the theatre that no-one could catch (not true)
and they all lean in (fascinated)
and me after ten (or more) drinks can tell a dam good yarn
i’m getting restless here so i leave my audience
wander down to him (and his lot)
and ask him if he wants to stay with them
or come upstairs and dance with me
he wants to dance
but has found some (well-heeled) trade
so he nips into the disabled toilet
with an excited old trick (on a walking frame)
i get bought a couple of (top shelf) shots
tell another (untrue) tale
and line up a dude (for tomorrow) 
and when he's back
we head upstairs  

and in an all-night club
full of (all night) people
we forget about bar games (and survival)
and dance
(until the sun comes up) 

Wolfpack Contributor: Stephen House

5 Poem Poetry Showcase from Stephen House

Wolfpack Contributor: Stephen House

Stephen House has won many awards and nominations as a poet, playwright and actor, including two Australian Writer’s Guild Awgie Awards, and a Greenroom Best Actor nomination. He has had 20 plays produced, many of them commissioned. He’s received international literature residencies from The Australia Council and Asialink. His chapbook “real and unreal” was published by ICOE Press. His next book is out soon. His poetry is published often, and he performs his acclaimed monologues widely. 

3 poems from Stephen House

“Romano” published by Flashes of Brilliance USA / excerpt from my (author’s) stage-play monologue, Almost Face to Face published by Australian Plays Transform

“salvation” published by Global Poemic / experimental-experimental-literature USA

“anything” published by Literary Garland India


Romano is below the room
at the doorway 
propped up under the pink light 
bare chest 
and top button of his low-slung jeans undone

a young businessman is cruising him 
from his slick sports car

Romano is whoring
out of habit
out of need
out of anger at me 

i’ve seen him in this stance so many times
this morning it makes me sick 
his semi nakedness on the dirty curb 
dragging me back to my own young life 

we stare at each other  
in stark knowing amphetamine silence 
i turn away from him and go upstairs
Romano leaves his trick and follows me 

murmuring in his stupid language 
musty street smell mixed with expensive cologne 
breath on my neck
exciting and disgusting at the same time
words rasping out a familiar desperate song 
we both sing so well 

i don’t stop and turn back
i can’t 

i look away from his deep dark eyes
take my bag and grubby money 
and go back down the narrow wooden staircase

Romano calls to me 
something about love 

i keep moving
away from him
and that part of me
with him

towards i don’t know where 
or who


hopeful genius dirty collar 
situation wonder claiming 
biting pencil scratching guess 
crossword puzzle giving answers
chewing gum tied back hair 
fiddle greasy grey pot smoking
is anyone granting wish on hope 
be it lost or found in this

pink-lipped mummies designer gym suits 
platform sneakers outing granted  
selfie shots gossip babble 
murmur giggle text on phone 
takeaway coffee gripping sipping 
keeping fast step separate pacing 
walk hard team power beauty temple 
pouting flee delivers health   

deal constructed business suits 
let’s go hey mate cool in awesome
check out new porn up online 
no lunch spot sit down here allowed
in shut down mode pull compensation 
feel strange new life in whine
did you see gay dude look at you 
paranoia sings fear gamble

and them dot tightly small group thrice 
on well-mowed lawn hedge square 
as kids run shouting cake shop gifting 
waiting birds squawk hopeful scrap 
day party happen easy rules 
social distance not held why
new work style no job or school 
manipulation welfare scandal 

and me alone same time day night 
no change i still cruise wander
a swim they say no too cold bloke 
gape smile back on chat concern
in plunge to sea remind my real 
salvation claim i scribe own journey
pack my bag when restricting travel lifts 
gain back my queer life amble


nobody told me
wilting flowers in a grubby vase
makes me sigh and wonder why i am alive
(and sometimes get distressed depending on the flowers)

an old man scratching an old dog’s back
reminds me of walking along a bleak empty road 
(especially if the dog arches and the man whistles) 

dead fish floating in a remote country creek
is enough of a reason to howl to the sky
(and go back to the creek again to see if the fish are gone)

the neighbour’s threadbare mauve dressing gown 
sends me inside my house with tears in my eyes
(and throw away two t shirts and a pair of maroon socks)

the laughing couple next to me on the crowded bus
results in me becoming nauseous and sad at the same time
(because the laughs are not real and i know that)

a table of women talking over each other
brings on suicidal thoughts i haven’t had in ages
(but encourages me to escape the babble by leaving the café) 

not looking at my phone for three days
means the same as climbing a cold silent mountain
(realizing determination offers a blend of reward and anxiety)  

the crying man reading text messages
forces me to try to catch his eye to offer a smile
(of heartfelt empathy for i know exactly how he is feeling) 

nobody told me anything
(i should know)

Stephen House has won many awards and nominations as a poet, playwright and actor. He has had 20 plays produced; many commissioned. He’s received international literature residencies from The Australia Council and Asialink. His chapbook “real and unreal” was published by ICOE Press. His next book is out soon. His poetry is published often and he performs his acclaimed monologues widely 

Wolfpack Contributor: Stephen House  

5 Poem Poetry Showcase from Stephen House

5 Poem Poetry Showcase from Stephen House

*note all 5 poems below were previously published in the following magazine/websites
“ditto” published by Pif Magazine USA 
“closure” published by Honest Ulsterman Northern Ireland / Culture Cult India 
“café of then” published by The Blue Nib Ireland  
“self-preservation” published by E Ratio USA
“thankful” published by Verse of Silence India / highly commended for The Robyn Mathison
Poetry Prize Australia*


crawling gentle on splintered wood
shards of trickle a smudge reminder 
of my still alive continuing

did a muffled dream breathe isolated
or was combination itinerant scribe
nature presenting elementary grasp

nobody knew i played with dangerous
why discard compensation ongoing
endure dependent relies on silent

it was murky rain on broken past
that spelt me your eyes meant truth
only a fox smiles of not eat fresh kill 

they must realize decades of try
to slap me down bred pointless
achieved their angst and my freedom

i’m no real poet of anything actual
an assembly devised in lockdown
became art form notorious slap

would the cluster believe joyful
comes from non-adherence be normal
essential queer chime takes final bow

ditto answers all when constructing
sliding chapters in pandemic scale
decades taught me heaven belief


we pondered final cold parting
debated repeat inevitable flee 
two bodies stifled year sly passion
nil fact else glue seal tight stay
avoidance trick of never be closure 
rational discuss lost in bull-shit whine  
ritual words drown keep damp clinging
next sex muddle bed fake home 

so i pulled at pin grip tight near always 
pricked hope inflate squirm slippery in need  
goodbye whisper pack tremble escaping 
pleaded no call scream baby come back 
stopped slept empty alone beach hiding
cried as kid lost new toy in snatch
grieved be missing us body kiss struggle
hope tear brittle gone lope sliding waste

began roam swept coast bird-screech singing 
forest cloud trail growth calm give murmer
ocean flounder icy blue dreaming
sand warming pillow fall white stretch no end
inlet granite time old grow always
trees reach sway weather element life
mantra name silent supreme inner ancient
horizon arrive red-orange new cycle 

returned to corpse house once empty grip lover 
smelling lust-chaos tales more never will
ghost-me wet screaming memory ghost-you
life drift lame kind nothing now all
breathe in true wanting back me be only
calm alive here alone fleshing stable 
silence time beauty return wallow sacred
nil regret you naught never will me be

café of then

there’s a café tucked into a city nook
where i’d regularly be three decades ago
when i’m back this way   
i always stop by 
take my old table spot
float back 
to life of then

i’d skulk here to hook up late at night 
drop in heading home in wide eyed dawn
speeding crazy 
crashing low
nowhere to go 
needing somewhere be
boy dream soaring
hard morning pain
confused by not real
escape bad trick danger

a mate from that epoch appears 
i nip in and order bitter blacks
bump into an italian with now dyed hair 
who i knew from more than here 

shakes hard my hand 
recalls with worn grin
us in a dim city room with new-found trade 
on the game together 
a few times one year 
i chuckle wry at street-wandering ways			
he sniggers sly at what’s still not forgot

as years slide on 
and ways of vanished youth 
drift into psychedelic space 
i give thanks to run-away eons and after dark lads 
who faded out through fate and choice 

or kept going on like me and some
riding faded spontaneous memories
jolted along by almost old age  
struggling against blatant facts 
of a dwindling now

hidden stories of bygone reality
steering the remembered route
back to this café of then


silence knows conceal of stifled queer self-young 
kept tight vigilant under wrap in never give my all 
careful instilled damage residing in thrown chains 
dragged along by experience regardless as they dish
put down cards to remove shadow of privately safe  

so i floated away to hidden no name bliss destination 
for sweet acceptance relief from lectured draining calm  
to soft vision harmless shell of no expectation burden 
without abuse process adding toil to how and why path 
obvious returns in who cares elation of run fast escape  

and fuck their taught lessons since born glimpse told
instilled frozen dread of alone when human complexity
was not spun by doctrine heterosexual churching values 
or biding by rules of no choice made to cry sorry twice  
for me is not on offer to them of unnatural changing plan 

rhyming inner agenda through persuaded knot in mindful
by internal direction ordained psychology taught analysis
education in social norm drives convention in exist try
work living and expected interaction delivers cold tedium   
to view unfolding destroyed into obscured by adherence  

but self-preservation designed by realization life known 
without measured layer expectation drowning internal truth
offers combination of one-ness that is fact of all-together  
teaching avoidance of dictated pushed enquiry conveying be 
of circling still point in time universal honesty delivers win


breathing in 

ice sea-froth lap naked feet pinking
ramble be one follow winter grit beach

twist trail gum trees hike wild step pacing
screech birds flock-massing silent move gain

coffee two more shadow tall morning city
eyes blue-grey playful near switch click device

bag travel packing in wheels joining ramble
park scrub moon welcome lone slowing slumber

pink-red shiraz sip blue flute chill crystal
dark shadow dance once was i can as them

your you-voice sweet choir my fade tune sing missing
gaze look in dreaming rise float waning heaven

ocean submerge womb heal water still body
blood-drip set sunning sky envelope calm 

words written think verse take given by honest
universal be living celebration now with

smiling out 

Wolfpack Contributor: Stephen House

3 poems from Stephen House

Bio: Stephen House has won many awards and nominations as a poet, playwright, and actor. He has been commissioned many times, and had 20 plays, and several word and image exhibitions and short films produced. He has received international literature residencies from The Australia Council for the Arts to Canada and Ireland, and an Asia-link India residency. His chapbook “real and unreal” was published by ICOE Press Australia.His new book will be released soon. He is published often and performs his acclaimed monologues widely.
Stephen House | Australian Plays Transform (apt.org.au)