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


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


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.


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.


Sitting on the deck that overhangs the lagoon,

a woman’s voice speaks to me from inside the house.

It takes me back to summer holidays on Lake Stanley, when I was a child,

and no amount of calling would bring me home.

Here, like then, I watch the sun reflecting from the lake’s surface,

the sandy mud, the smell of thick forests and clean water.


A bird settles on the lake and my mind drifts away into the universe.

How strange to be an old man with a young man’s mind.

Music begins to play softly and there are more voices now

as the house begins to awake.

How many years of suffering to finally reach this year of peace?

How sad to think that I am only looking at this lake now

after years of profits and deadlines.


If I were a brave man, I would have done more

to live life like a free man.

All choices are correct and incorrect,

all life comes to an end.

The forest is thick around the edge of the lake,

there is rain coming.

The German teacher

She laughed and tilted her head back

She was laughing at something I had said

About traffic lights.

Something about the bus driver always wanting them to be green

But they were mostly red and often yellow.

She had green eyes.

She sat under the tree and watched us play

Then she would call us to her, and we would sit around her

Shaking out her dress so the dry grass cuttings would fall

she told us about her desire to go to sea in a sailing boat

and her dream to train guide dogs.

Then, opening a book, she would read to us.

The sun dancing through the leaves and the smell of sweat dry air

Still play in my memory.

Her blonde hair, German accent, made her so unique.

In the evenings, dad would make me collect firewood.

I would load the wheelbarrow and push it past the school to her house

And there I would stack her firewood hutch.

She would stand at the back door and watch me.

I would carry a few logs into the house and fill her wood box next to the fire.

The shelves in her living room were filled with books

And I would sit on her lounge chair, waiting to receive a cup of hot chocolate and a biscuit.

She would sit next to me and tell me about her holiday in Africa or her hometown.

Then, when it became dark and the fire had warmed the room,

I would reluctantly rise and walk home in the cold.

Always I would spend too long at her house.

Those winter nights felt like a great romance to me.

The pier


At night the lights on the pier come on,

and this cheap part of the city becomes a carnival.

The darkness sits on the water,

waves dance with white caps.

The pier looks to be a mile long

all made of timber-

it stretches out forever.

The sea sings its careless scratchy song.

White lights hang above the balustrade

giving the appearance of the path to heaven

or some great party where everyone is late.


A cold wind blows from the islands,

something swims underneath,

an old man stands to one side with a fishing rod.

I stand near him and look down to the black water.

The line disappears as if it is tied to some point on the ocean floor.

He doesn’t look at me. He hides in his huge woollen jacket,

his hat is pulled down around his ears.

I have seen babies wear hats like this

so their ears are kept warm.

But his skin is brown and wrinkled like sand.

He looks as old as this pier.


Lord Byron on Vorm Street

Sitting on Vorm Street

minding my own business in the sun

a guy came up to me.

I knew him. His name was Byron and he asked people to call him ‘Lord Byron’

but no one did.

“Did you know it’s going to rain for the next six days?” he asked.

“Yes I heard”

“I want to sell my car. I’m moving to Brisbane.”

“How much?”

“$2100. No offers.”

“No, too much.” I said.

He waved his hand at me and walked into the café I was out front of.

The door opened and cool air rushed into the street like a river.

I heard the voices of women inside, a baby cried.

A cockroach ran on the wall beside me. It trod on the bricks carefully

like a man does when he is barefooted on sand.

I looked at Byron’s car. It was eggshell blue and forty years old.

He would be selling it because it would never make it the thousand kilometres to Queensland.

The man also smoked in it.

I bought a pair of second-hand shoes off a man who smoked once,

the shoes forever smelled like smoke.

Every morning when I put them on

I would smell smoke.

I wore holes in those shoes, but they always smelled.

That car would never be any good, just like its owner.

Byron came out of the café and stood next to me.

“I’ll take $1500,” he said.

“No. What do I need a car for? I only live around the corner and the centre of town is only

over there.”

I pointed into the distance where the bridge could be seen stretching across the river.

“Driving only makes things complicated” I continued.

Byron walked away. He looked angry.

I had seen him swear at a man outside a nightclub once

The man knocked Byron down.

Byron’s confidence was never as great again.

A memory

I remember walking through the streets of Temora

Going home one night after a party.

And Darren stopping and pointing out the stars,

Telling me about the constellations and planets

That are visible each night.

These planets, out of reach, make each night unique.


He told me:

There was an Indigenous people,

Who believed

That each star was a hole

Torn in the night

By a spear thrown

And each shooting star

Was an spear falling.


His love of knowledge,

His kindness, his dreams.

His fiery ambitions toward politics,

And his ability to debate,

Made up a good life.

All stories come to an end,

And he is now out of reach.

But the happiness he brought to those who liked or loved him

Make his life unique.