Month: January 2018

Apartment building on 347 Favoux Street

The clerk working in the bank

Itching his legs under the desk and getting up to go the bathroom

For the third time this hour.

He walks home after work.

It has been raining and water pools on the footpath

And drips from the shop awnings.

 

At home, he stands in his kitchen and heats up

A packet of noodles.

Outside it begins to rain again and his little window mists over.

The water boils in the saucepan slowly,

Like a bath.

 

He has talked his neighbour into going out with him.

She is a small woman, with a friendly smile.

He meets her at her front door,

She is wearing a blue dress with blue buttons

He is wearing a brown polo shirt.

He takes her to the movies.

Afterwards, they walk along the pier

And eat spiralised potatoes.

 

She tells him about her last boyfriend,

And how he drank too much

He listens with a pretend interest,

Hiding his annoyance.

Back in her apartment

She puts a movie on Netflix

And they sit down to watch for a while,

Until yawning, she asks him to come into the bedroom

And they have sex.

He leaves at two am

Feeling the dampness that the night brings

And the dampness that this kind of love brings

And he sleeps a deep sleep

That only the numb can sleep.

In the morning he wakes late and has to rush to work.

She wakes late, and not having to start work until the afternoon

She takes a bath.

She makes it as hot as she can

And watches the clouds through the skylight

And wonders what the day will bring.

Calmly she thinks about last night;

As if youth lasted forever.

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Movie Stars

She was beautiful and innocent,

She would wear plain, shapeless dresses, but on her

They looked like summer rain on the canna lilies.

She turned 18 in 1997.

Back then,

On a rainy day, when I was even younger than her,

We went to a bookstore.

Timber trestle tables were set up, and cheap books were spread across them

All in a jumbled pile.

She picked up a book on actors of the 20th century

And took it to the old man at the cash register and bought it.

At nights, she would read the book to me

Telling me the life stories of these actors and the movies they were in.

These people were so far removed from our lives

But they seemed so glamorous.

She would tell me one day she’d go to Hollywood and see where these people live,

See their mansions.

Sometimes, she would take me to the movies

And we’d see films,

Cartoons and whatever was playing.

Over the years that old book,

With its heavy hard cover,

 would come out and we’d go over the names and photos.

Every time an actor would die, she would carefully, neatly

Write in the date of their death next to their name.

Years past

And many of those old actors died.

Beautiful women with long blonde hair,

Men with burning eyes and large chins.

I would listen to the news and when an actor died,

I would rush to her room so I would be the first to tell her the news.

It was a morbid connection.

The movie stars of the 20th century

The old world stars slowly fading and disappearing.

She never made it to Hollywood

Instead she met a man

And she married him.

Still, when a celebrity dies, I think of her

And I’ll text her

Hoping I’ll be the first to tell her the news.

City sleep

Once, when I lived in that city,

I had gone up a street I’d never been up before.

There was a stone building that looked like an old stable.

A beautiful building; a date on the front said ‘1857’.

I looked inside the open door; there were piles of cloth, paper, and metal on the floor.

All scraps pulled from the rubbish and then sorted into piles.

The ceiling had partially fallen in, and dusty light streamed in

Revealing a mirror that hung on the water-stained walls.

On a pile of cloth, lay an old man

Dead.

His old-fashioned tweed cap firmly on his head,

But something had been eating him, and his shirt had been torn away

A yellow grease had come out of him and stained the cloth he lay on.

 

Later that night, I sat outside and watched the lights of the city.

One of the hottest nights I can remember.

The heat made it hard to breathe.

And the bricks and cement around me vibrated.

The neighbours’ bins stank

And I felt unwell.

Bleak ripples

Broken on the hard timber floor,

Like the moonlight,

The glass takes a different look when it’s broken.

It becomes cold and dangerous.

The wind through a broken window is so much colder.

He had been dead three months

When I dreamed he was sending me emails.

In them he asked, pleaded

That I send him food.

If the dead returned from the grave

They would head home,

And you would find them sitting in their chairs,

With the television on,

Tears pooling and dropping from their empty eyes.

The dead long for one more day.

So it was over just like that

And the lies that came were black, hollow lies,

Lies that keep you awake at night.

The disappointment feels like cold rocks

Under your bare feet

On a midnight walk.

I had not looked at the moon for a long time,

So tonight I spent a lot of time looking at her.

Theia’s daughter

Theia

Who lost her soul

When she fell in love and gave birth one hot night-

Then died.

In the morning the sheets are pulled back

And the window, with its new glass pane, is open.

The cold air fills the room

Like the sound of the ocean.

The anger rises at unexpected results

The money, the love, the happiness

That should have been, but is not.

Completely removed from faith,

Removed from hope.

It was a small thing,

The key that opened the letterbox stopped working,

The lock would not turn

But it was enough for him to take to his wife with fists.

At night, his rage filled the street,

Her voice chilled us.

The moon is still looking down on us,

Moving our tides and creating life.

That woman who could change everyone’s minds but one, said:

Without the moon, there would be no life on earth

The moon is moving away at 4 centimetres a year,

The sun too will explode.

After she left him

She built her house on the waterfront.

Her new house was three hours south of where I lived.

I would drive there every weekend and spend the time swimming

At night I would sleep on her lounge room floor

 But then I went less and less

 I can’t remember why I stopped going.

I hate the sound of footsteps in gravel

Especially when I am in bed at night, and I hear people walking about outside.

It reminds me of neighbours coming home drunk.

I fall into restless dreams from exhaustion;

Then dreams of the dead man come back

Asking for me to send him some food.

work tomorrow.

The first day on the job,

I wait in the meeting room reading Anna Karenina.

The tour happens painfully,

miserable people look up from their desks and smile.

This is

(I can’t remember names)

she found her son dead in their bathroom three years ago.

This is – and her husband left her for her best friend

This is- and he has a drinking problem, and he takes a lot of holidays to Indonesia.

I look around the office and smile back at them.

 

The night feels like a hot bath

the people are ugly now. Twenty years ago many were beautiful.

Everyone is angry.

Nothing is true.

The fear is to be felt most keenly

As the years pass and begin to pass quicker still,

A fear of opening the front door one day

And stepping into a quiet hall

And thinking

‘I am alone.’

 

Standing outside my old house on that beautiful street,

too late in the evening,

being watched by every dog and old woman.

I run my hand along the fence and remember I did this 30 years ago.

The broken sidewalk has been fixed,

the streetlights are brighter,

but that is all that has changed.

I think about the legs as they cross themselves in late night cafes

I watch the waitress as she wipes down tables.

She has a blue-black eagle tattooed on her bicep.

She looks around blindly

And occasionally laughs at something the cook says to her as she passes him.

 

I have heard the words of beauty,

And I too have had to get up from my stool

And catch the bus,

It arrives at 2 am

And leaves at 2.03.

Kitchen

The small kitchen only had room for a fridge and a bench,

But it had a window that overlooked the city.

I remember visiting her for the first time, finding her

cutting vegetables next to the stove. She grinned when she saw me and

opened the fridge door,

it banged against the cupboard.

The radio was on, a song she remembered from high school played,

She sang along.

The next time I came to see her she had a guitar in the kitchen

She played it and sang a sad tune.

We watched the lights come up in the city and the old clock chime eleven.

All the other windows in the place faced onto brick walls.

She would have friends over and they would all sing

Their voices melting into one another until it got late

And they started to sound like tomcats, howling at the moon.

The place had a dark dining room with antique furniture,

The bathroom was small and damp,

her bedroom was tidy and filled with books.

But the tiny kitchen was the heart of that apartment.