Art

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.

Advertisements

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.

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.

Sitting

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.

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.

The acrobat

The floor boards in the room

are about 12 inches wide.

The house was built in 1790, a man had been hanged in the backyard

And there is a cell built in under the house.

This is Andrea’s room.

She rents it for $120 per week.

 Andrea worked in the circus

But she lost her job.

It is an odd story, but she told it to me last night

As we were lying in bed and the moon shone across the sheets

Bathing us in a clean white light.

The window was open and somewhere the wind blew

A door open and closed over and over again.

Her job was to climb a rope,

Holding an antique vase and then,

Using her incredible strength,

Spin around doing tricks.

One night,

She drops the vase

And when it hits the ground

It doesn’t break, it bounces.

The scheme was the vase looked antique,

But it was made of rubber.

The crowd laughed

And she lost her job that night after the show.

I listened to her story,

But I knew it was not completely true.

I had been told she’d been stealing money,

But I didn’t say anything to her.

Now she works in the casino with me.

I clean dishes in the kitchen and she makes and sells coffee in the café,

Sometimes we would talk and play blackjack

And that’s how I met her.

She had to go to work early and I don’t start until late

So I get to lay in bed, listening to the sounds of this city

And the door opening and closing in the wind.

 He room is so much neater than mine, and cheaper.

I live in an old apartment on the highway.

The only thing I don’t have are ghosts,

And sometimes at night, in this old house,

Andrea tells me she hears things, like ghosts

Moaning outside the door.

That’s why she likes company.

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.