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No ghosts

She used to play the piano in the lounge room

Until her hands hurt too much, and she could no longer move her fingers across the keys.

Then, she spent her time by the large bay windows, letting the breeze cool her of an evening. 

She only had a few months of that, then she died.

One morning I came to her room and knocked. 

She was dead in her bed. 

We buried her; I played some piano music from an expensive speaker.

What could I do with the piano?
There was nothing to do so I left it in the lounge room. 

I sat in front of the bay window and let the breeze drift across me.

The house is empty and silent without her

I imagine her ghost in the room

But what frightens me most of all

Is that there are no ghosts.

Kokoro

The piano teacher set out the rules of attraction

Mine were of trouble.

“Kokoro,” I called out.

The slim, attractive woman appeared. She was a child of God. That is what she called herself.

“Tell me of your dream,” I asked.

The cat’s cradle, she said, I dreamed it was under fire.

There was a death

Even while we followed the rules for life.

Resurrection.

At swim, all my friends felt pleasure and sorrow.

The correction, Charlie travels here today.

A war crime.

I held up my hand

“You watch too much of the news before bed,” I said.

Smiling, she patted at her dress and turned to leave.

“Stay,” I asked. “It is early. We can watch the sunrise from the balcony.”
The city was yellow with lights, the last of the night sat uneasily

With the sun on the horizon.  

aged

The steps to the house are loose

Broken

The door does not lock

The windows allow rain in

There is mold and the smell of rot.

The old man

Fleeing the old people’s home

Makes his way here and stumbles in the front door.

When he was a young man

The road here was manageable

Now it is clogged with cars

They are knocking his house down soon

But one more night in his own room

Before they find him in the morning.

Night air

I don’t know if I’ve got it in me tonight

The same streets and shops

The same faces

The sunny day, the rainy day

The health and sickness.

I stand by the supermarket and watch the rain fall off the roof and puddle in the car park

I wonder where to from here.

The night comes

The street lights

It’s still raining.

The saddest I’ve been is standing outside a mattress and bed shop

At 2 am

Looking at the beds on display.

The Woman

He liked the woman

He liked the way she looked,

The way she combed her hair and the perfume she wore.

He liked the way she would be waiting for him at night

With a glass of gin, in the dark

And she would always offer him one.

He liked the way she looked dressed and naked

He liked the way she saw things and the way she spoke.

He hated his job, his bosses, and the people around him

He hated the bus rides, the dirty streets

The jokers and the cursed

He hated how easily dreams could fall away and show nothing but weakness

The weakness that was exposed in him and in others

He hated the endless coffee

The endless eating even when he wasn’t hungry

He hated his face when it was shown in pictures.

But she was different. Like a fire in a cold place

He liked her.

1840

Six am was the first bell

Roll up the bedding and put it on the third shelf

Fifteen minutes later, the second bell

And we would all step out of our rooms.

It was cold in winter, so cold you thought you would die.

Summer was better, but we worked longer days.

We would exercise, eat breakfast, be spoken to

And then by nine am we would be expected to start work.

I, taking up my tools, would chisel at the sandstone and the limestone

Making building blocks out in the reclaimed land of the yard.

There was a team with me, many apprentices but mostly skilled men. 

He would say, “Does that make sense? Do you understand?” Until I hated him.

That bully of a man. He bullied some worse than others. 

A working party came by with axes and shovels on their way to clear the churchyard.

One boy, thin, yellow looking, 

Took an axe and caved the bully’s head in. The boy said, “That should end it,” and they took him away.

It solved my problem. But the boy was later hanged. 

I noticed the blood pool on the ground underneath the dead man.

They took the body away;  we continued our work.

At twelve, we had dinner and a break, then went back to work for the afternoon. 

Before supper, I stopped and watched the afternoon sun in the giant trees.  

At night, the last bell ringing at 9 pm

I was alone with my thoughts. 

The guard walks about with slippers. 

I hear the padding of his feet

He wants to catch us doing wrong. 

In a year, I’ll be gone. I’ll head to Hobart and work stone.

It won’t take long. 

A snapshot of Blenchow Bay

The stone house

Painted white inside

With white windows

Had five rooms

Two bedrooms, 

Dining room

Library 

Sitting room.

The kitchen and bathroom were separate rooms behind the house.

The front windows had a view over the bay.

The yard that stretched for twelve acres wide,

Ended in a path that cut down to the water and sandy beach. 

In that house, Ingrid had raised four children

Loved a husband and lost him

Seen her eighteen birthday

And now, on a rain-soaked, grey October day, saw her 80th.

She began the day at five, watching the rain drops run down her Smokey-glassed windows

Watching the fishing boats in the harbour

With their lights disappearing out of the bay.

She had already set the fire in the kitchen and in the sitting room

Now she had bread baking, clothes drying and the net that she was mending 

Set up across the timber grid. 

It was a cold, quiet day; the sound of the rain on the roof kept her company

She rubbed her hands together and felt how dry they were, like autumn leaves

She did not need to go into town today and looked forward to resting in the afternoon. 

Jessica

In my home town

You could open my front door

And look down the hill to the bay.

My home had an ornate Georgian veranda

A white timber fence and wire gate.

The street I lived in was wide and clean.

Turn left, and you walked into the city, turn right, and you headed to the hills.

When I was fifteen,

I would walk the back lanes

I would deliver papers for the newsagent

I would visit Jessica, who lived in a terrace house around the corner

She was red-haired, a beautiful girl

A beauty that I slightly, but not really, recognised.

Her father would collect books,

The front veranda was full of books

A person could reach across the front fence and take one

But no one ever did.

The front hall was lined on both sides with books

And the spare room could not be entered.

The rest of the house was neat and tidy.

It was Jessica and her father

Living in thousands of books.

She was the sweetest friend

We would go swimming in the bay in the summer

We would walk the hills in winter.

One winter night, we stayed out in the dark and lit a fire

She told me about her favourite books

She told me that her father suffered from nervous breakdowns

I told her about the planets

And she told me that what I thought was Mars was actually Jupiter.

The sky was endless black and stars

We walked home in the dark

The yellow glow of the city replaced the silver dust of night.