Uncategorized

Birds

Sitting on the side of the highway

dozing in the front of my car,

I blinked awake and noticed the sky turning red

as the sun set over the empty lots and heavy cranes of the industrial park.

I had hours left to drive.

By the side of the road

Six birds danced

Pecking at seeds and grain spilled on the road by farm trucks.

The six birds were of two different species,

Two were galahs; they stood together.

Four were rosellas.

The galahs moved slowly, like fat angels,

Their pink feathers

Shone like morning time.

They ate from their claws, holding the seed to their beaks.

The smaller birds

Looked like moving rainbows,

Their feathers of blue, green, and red

Made them look like French Kings.

In busy steps and hops

The birds climbed onto the black road.

I raised my hand to honk the horn, to scatter them back to the trees.

Before I could,

With a growl, a blue sedan raced past

And without hesitating,

Ploughed into the busy birds.

That car, with a series of soft thuds,

Scattered the tiny bodies across the road.

White feathers rained down from the sky

Like God had torn a pillow.

Those warm naked bodies rolled across the black tar

Some into the grass beside the road.

One bird was only injured,

It crawled about in circles, terrified and blinded by pain.

I looked up to see the driver as she disappeared,

She was a young woman with long black hair

And large black sunglasses,

She did not flinch,

Did not doubt,

But continued on her way without a thought.

The destruction of those six birds happened so quickly

Those naked bodies, the broken necks,

Those beautiful birds

Scattered like ashes in the wind.

My room above the railway

 

Moving from room to room

Falling in love with a poster on the wall.

The window is dirty on the outside

But it won’t open

And I can’t clean it.

I see a pigeon sitting on the sill

I watch it clean its wings.

They have tiny mites that bite them all day long

And I wonder how they can stand it.

The cockroaches come out at night.

I found two of them in my cutlery drawn

They were sitting on my forks.

The newspaper that lines the drawers

Is dated from the 80s

The cockroaches don’t make me as angry as I thought they would.

The yellow lights of the railway lines makes me sleepy

The white lights of the city excite me and keep me awake.

Listen to Beethoven and the sound of the traffic.

A baby cries next door

 I didn’t even know my neighbor had a girlfriend

Someone else must have moved in.

I haven’t cleaned this place in weeks

I have no money after paying the rent

They are inspecting this room tomorrow.

One arm

Standing at the railway station,

A man with a long beard and only one arm came up to me.

“Don’t I know you?” he said.

“I don’t think so,” I answered.

I sat down on a bench, and the man sat next to me.

We didn’t speak, but he seemed to think there was some connection between us.

“The feeling I like best in the world,” he said, leaning toward me as he spoke,

“Is to get really dirty. I mean covered in dirt until your hair goes wiry,

And your skin goes white and brown from dirt, and then to wait for a really cold night,

And have a hot shower. I just love to see the dirt run off the skin,

I love the feeling of getting clean.

Do you know what I mean?”

I didn’t answer him. But I knew what he meant. I like that feeling too.

The man smelled bad, like a urine soaked mattress.

“Do you know where there are any showers around here?” he asked.

“The service station has some, in the truck stop. About five blocks toward the bridge.”

The man nodded and smiled. “Do I need to write that down?” he asked.

“No, it’s just over there.” I pointed toward the bridge.

“Hey, do those showers cost anything?”

“I think they’re free.”

“Hey, I just want to thank you for being a good friend.”

I didn’t say anything, but I laughed.

“No, seriously. You’ve been so good. I’ve been through a lot in my life.

My wife left me for her boss; my daughter is on drugs,

I ain’t eaten well for a long time

And I’ve got this pain in my legs that won’t go away.

It really means a lot to me that you are kind.

Could you lend me five bucks?”

I looked at the guy. He had red sores on his face,

His eyes were narrow and close to each other

His beard was white as cheap paint

But around his scabby mouth

The hair was brown like mud.

I had seen him before.

When I was in high school, I had seen him picking up bottles around town

The bottles could be returned for the deposit.

He had two arms then.

I took five dollars out of my pocket and held it out,

Then took it away.

“How’d you lose your arm?” I asked him.

He looked at my hand with the money in it; he looked hungry.

“I used to fix motors for the city, the big motors that keep the water pressure up in the city.

One day I’m fixing one and I got my arm right up in the tube

And some jerk turns the power on

And it rips my arm right off.

I got blood spraying up the wall, and I’m screaming; they rush me to the hospital.

The doctors ask where my arm is

And no one knows

So they just sew up the socket, and that’s that.

They never found my arm.
It’s still in the water pipes.

It’s in the tubes that supply this city’s drinking water.

My arms rotting in those tubes

And everyone is drinking that water,

So, a part of me is in everyone,

You’re all drinking me.

I looked at the thin man and the empty space at his right shoulder,

His red and white checker shirt sleeve pinned to his chest,

“Everyone is drinking me,” he repeated.

Shots of life

 

The judge said ‘I will not punish him; his life is sad enough.’

The man, with no pay, no family, no friends, was allowed to go.

His lawyer smiled to himself, pleased with the defense.

This same lawyer who lost it all to drink.

 

I saw the man whose brain was operated on

Shuffling down the main street

In slippers and white robe,

A vacant look in his eyes and drool on his chin.

 

Roosevelt and Kipling told their boys to go to war for great adventure.

One boy had his head exploded by a machine gun

And the other was bayonetted through the ribs.

Both fathers never recovered.

 

Let the photographer save the moment

Pay the late fees as they come.

Grasp the money to your chest

As your heart explodes and see how far the money will take you.

 

Be the best friend to your love,

Hold your child to you tightly

and be kind to those you encounter.

It is painful to spend Christmas alone.

Blue eyes

He was a complainer,

He never paid a bill on time,

He would ask people if they believed in God,

But he had the most beautiful eyes.

They were blue like the arctic wind

And when he looked at you, he would look through you.

He always picked up women hitchhikers.

He found dozens of young girls

On the northern coasts

And he would drive them where ever they wanted to go,

And he always asked them for sex.

Most of them would reject him angrily

But a few older, harder ones would let him.

He would tell me the stories and smile

And wink one of those eyes

For which he was famous.

One day he was found dead

In the front seat of his old van.

I went to his funeral, not many people came.

But I sat there and remembered his laugh

And thought about how I’d miss this guy

And I thought about his bright blue eyes.

What gives life, also takes it.

What gives life also kills it.

The waves of the ocean breaking on black rocks,

The swift bird settling on a pink flower,

The moon, heavy as good luck,

Sitting on an old, grey-bearded cloud.

 

These beautiful things give life to poetry,

But if you forget to catch them,

These things also kill the words.

Like an animal in the night,

The words flee into the forest and are lost.

 

That woman, my wife, full of life

Moving softly on the sand,

The water filling the prints she leaves,

Her smile and happy eyes

Give birth to the words.

 

Grasp the work when it is there,

Wait for it quietly and encourage it with good thoughts.

Nothing is guaranteed.

The man whose job it is to cut the wood in winter,

Must cart water in summer.

Songs of love

The stars above know not of love

In their cold vacuum above,

And so they shine and seek our eyes.

But we know of love

So let’s hide away,

And at night, be never seen.

We shall lie in each other’s arms.

Happy to be lost in the night, together.

 

 

Open the window and cast your gaze out onto whatever you see,

All things you see are caught in time,

And can only last so long.

You cannot see or hold love,

As so it should be,

For true love lasts forever.

Time can destroy what you can see

But love is the closet we can come

To immortality.

 

Hold me close and smile on those you hold dear,

Hold me close and come with me to visit beautiful places,

Hold me close as you fall asleep and dream.

I hope that life brings you all you want

And that you always hold me close.

Today, now a memory.

A yellow fog lay across the suburb today.

Row after row of tired houses

With a yellow fog, heavy on the roads.

A few lights turned on, but still, the fog made everything look old and dirty.

Walking home tonight, I took the back lanes.

People in their houses, eating dinner,

the gutters by the road flowing with rain water.

The suburbs looked alive.

I passed the cancer hospital, still and empty

This time of night, the dying hours, everything is closed like broken eyes.

I think of the fog

And the midday rain.

I dream of sleeping, and waking in a new place,

Like a man who sleeps on a train

Or like a child in the car,

Falling asleep and waking in the morning,

As the family drives into the coastal town

beginning the two week holiday at the beach.

The oil painting of a woman, nude.

 

The oil painting of a woman,

lying naked across a red bed

with a fat, happy baby searching for her breast,

and a blue sky in view from the window,

hung in the dining room for two generations.

It was painted by a woman with a great talent.

When I was a boy, my grandmother told me

that the artist loved my grandfather

and had given the painting to him.

The woman in the painting was the artist herself

and the baby was the baby she never had.

Now, as a man

with no living grandparents,

I often wonder why my grandmother

had allowed such a painting to hang in the home.

Was it because it is a beautiful image, the flesh so soft and sensual,

The colours so clear and bright?

 

I only remember dark flashes of my grandfather,

I remember him as a happy, kind man.

My grandmother, a widow at the time she stood me before the painting,

Smiled at some hidden memory and asked me if I liked the picture.

I nodded and said I liked the baby.

She was satisfied, and we stood a while,

On that dark winter afternoon,

We looked at that painting, lit only by weak sunlight

Until my father turned on the room’s light.

The brightness broke the spell and we both looked away,

The electric light was too bright and harsh for that moment.

It hangs there still, like a spirit that haunts that room,

that woman forever looking out, searching for love,

while that baby, forever tiny, caught between a smile and a yawn,

begs to be born.

The bucket of rain

The bucket of water that catches the rain

is important to the birds and the frogs.

A dog drinks from the water, coughs, and drinks again.

It hasn’t rained all month,

but tonight it poured

and the bucket filled.

I watched out the window as a frog struggled

to climb out of the frothing waves,

it sat silently on the edge of the bucket

and rubbed its eyes.

I take the babies for a walk in the rain

and their mother chastises me when we return.