advice

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.

 

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Bookham Bridge

Standing in a group near Bookham

Touring the history of the town

The tour guide spoke of the men that were hanged from the bridge.

We walked slowly up the timber planks and listened to the creaking of the old structure.

They were stood along here for taking cattle

And stealing supplies from a farmer’s hut.

A rope was tied to their necks

And then they were kicked over the edge.

I looked at the bridge closely; the timber was dry and full of holes,

The steel thick with red crust,

But the view was beautiful.

A small river wound its way through the rocks and trees below,

then disappeared Into a blue haze.

 The country opened up like a jeweled book.

I wondered if the beauty around them

Played on the men’s minds.

The terror that took place in a landscape of marvel,

A universe that captivates and kills.

 

Internet dating

Summer came into the city

Like a train into a humid station.

Stepping down from carriage 7B,

Tom’s boot went into a puddle

And the water splashed gently outwards.

A relief to climb out of that underground station onto the early morning streets.

A homeless man who had slept the night outside the main entrance

Had wet himself. Piss ran across the pavement

And people rolled their luggage through it.

Tom stood a moment and watched the man sleep so gently

On a street where buses were running past him with a deep roar.

The street stretched down a steep hill into a canyon of buildings.

The city was so silver in the morning light.

A clock marked out that it was six and the people who were around him

Faded about like electricity.

 

Tom went to dinner with Megan.

They had met on the internet.

Tom spoke to her about his life in his hometown

And she spoke about her job and movies she liked.

She took him home and was his friend for the night.

In the morning, as she dressed for work

Slipping her thin body into a business suit.

He offered to take her for a coffee

And then he followed her to the office.

As she swiped her access card,

she turned and looked at him one last time.

Her eyes said she was a friend no more.

Tom turned and looked at the city

Again at six o’clock in the morning, he gripped his bag tighter.

The city didn’t look as clean as it did yesterday.

 

 

Love overall

I love you because regardless of how hard the world is

You continue to love

And continue to breathe the air as a child does,

With wonder, hope, and joy.

I love you because seeing a rainbow makes you excited

And you tell me it’s the most beautiful rainbow you’ve ever seen,

No matter how many times we see a rainbow.

 

I love you because you have never seen a shooting star

And you make me promise to show you one, one day.

I love you because you are allergic to dogs

Yet love my dog.

No matter how cold, you walk me to the bus stop.

And I love you because when things hurt me,

they hurt you too.

 

 

The lunatic sings the truth

 

 

She came along with a dirty dress hanging around her like a curtain

Torn from a derelict house.

Her hair was dirty and her face was beaten

By time and God knows who.

She noticed me and screamed

That I must work hard to be good,

Love Jesus and look after my loved ones.

She stopped and looked me square in the eye and repeated:

“Be good to your family.”

Then she walked on.

She stank and the air was fouled by her presence.

My publisher sat next to me and watched her go.

“She gave me a manuscript once, years ago.” he said.

“It was well written, the grammar was perfect,

But it was so boring. The characters, the events were so boring.”

“I would have bought her lunch,” I said. “if I knew she was a writer.”

We laughed, but deep down I knew

She had spoken the truth and given good advice.

Death of Chad Jones

When Chad Jones died

From an asthma attack while climbing Red Hill,

His father, Doctor Jones,

went into Chad’s room and gathered up all the belongings.

He picked up the trophies, books

He carried out the table and chair, computer, bed and the sheets

And threw all these things into the backyard.

Dr. Jones returned for Chad’s clothes and in great piles,

Laid the clothes out.

Chad’s mother pleaded with her husband not to do what he was doing,

But he continued, working hard

Until all the boy’s things were lying in the afternoon

Like a pyramid pointing to the sky.

Dr Jones then struck a match and lit some paper

And the things began to burn.

Black smoke filled the neighbourhood

The fire brigade arrived to see the mountain of melted plastic and wood

Raging in the backyard.

Doctor Jones’ daughter,

Who some years before, had watched the bonfire from her bedroom

Grew to 17

And left her town and father.

She worked in a bar on Foveaux Street

And filled her personal hours with dreams and men,

Until the fire caught up with her.

She died on a Tuesday night

By leaping off the wet Harbour Bridge.

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.

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 remembering of past times

Like the sun setting through the trees,

These streets give rise to memories.

The night rising in the strip joints and bars

The lights flash on old fashioned bulbs

And red neons point arrows and outlines of naked women.

All you need to do is go into a dark doorway and down some stairs

And you’ll find yourself in a den.

I remember as a boy

Walking the same city streets and seeing the same neon lights.

Everything seems dirtier and worn down now.

Crossing the road into the park

I see the paths that twist by the pond

And the bench where we would sit and talk about the things that mattered,

None of those things matter now.

It was years ago; nothing seems as serious to me now

As it did when I was 17.

The wind whips the dust in the street 

And memories whip in the heart.

I see a poster in a tunnel under the concrete overpass,

The corners are torn.

Remember that man who gave us cigarettes on our first date?

His hair purple and gelled up to points.

We went to the Greek restaurant, and we could only afford an entrée,

We ate and then I walked you home.

At 17 everything is funny, and everything is serious.

The last time I saw you, it was a rainy day

And your car wouldn’t start, so I pushed until it went. You waved but couldn’t stop

In case the old engine stalled.

That old yellow car took you away, you waved out the window and left town.

I prefer it this way; I am glad we never saw each other again.

Memories are worth more when they are left alone.

The great beauty

She was one of those girls you always look at when she comes in the room,

you try to see her out of the corner of your eye,

you watch where she sits

and when she looks up you look away quickly, so you’re not just staring at her.

She has that long flowing hair that drives people crazy

and she is really well shaped.

Not thin like some stick, but pretty.

Her nose is a knockout; it sits there like it was made for nothing

but looking pretty.

When she smiles, it’s like when you see a new sports car or when you see a thousand dollars in cash,

you just look at it because you know it is so good.

But she comes in the room surrounded by friends

and smiling that thousands of dollars in a sports car smile

And she sits down over near the old timber bookshelves that have been there

since 100 AD or something

and she just owns the place.

We all belong here, and we can all take out the books and write on our laptops,

but she owns it, like we are lucky she lets us stay.

Anyway, no one from my table, over near the vending machines, can talk to her,

we all just look up every now and again

and feel that happy, calm feeling.

Knowing that someone so beautiful

can exist in the same town, the same university, as we do.