creative writing

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.

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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.

School book room

They took down the war memorial today.

It stood in the park near the river

And the workmen removed it stone by stone.

A few people stood on the bridge and watched it come down,

I watched too. I watched an old man come out of the library

And cross the road.
He spoke to a workman in a red
hard hat

Until the workman shook his head and walked away.

I wondered what the old man said.

He wouldn’t leave,

He stood in front of the memorial and watched.

Even as I went into the library and found a seat near the front window,

He just stood in the park watching.

It reminded me of the book room at my old high school.

I used to love going in there.

It had piles of books.

All Quiet on the Western Front, the Great Gatsby,

The Red Badge of Courage, Poetry of Robert Frost,

Poetry of Wordsworth. To Kill a Mockingbird.

The books filled the shelves.
The smell of paper, the look of different covers.

There was no racism, ignorance, fear or loneliness in that room,

Those feelings were for the playground.

I took a book once because the cover had come off and

I thought they would throw it away.

I wanted it, it was The Red Badge of Courage.

A year after I left that school, someone lit a fire in that room

And burned half the school down.

That someone could set fire to that room

Shocked me.

That room where God lived.

A few years later

The school closed down.

I could take you there and show you where it stood

If you would meet me in my home town.

 

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.

The four week visit

Last night I dreamed

She turned from the window

And smiled.

The sun touched lips, the sun drenched hair,

And she spoke to me, softly,

I could not hear the words

But I could see her lips moving.

The morning came and I went to the window I dreamed of,

I looked out at the garden and the ocean beyond.

White waves on a blue ocean.

When she was here with me,

I would walk all day

And make up stories to tell her at night.

One day she told me she didn’t like the story I had told,

The woman in the story was too beautiful

And that made her sad.

She was gone the next day.

She had tied a red scarf to the apple tree by the gate,

It whipped in the wind

Like the bloody standard of a defeated army.

Old man

Folded back, broken down,

he is very thin, and he has missed patches of hair on his chin while shaving.

The young in their strength pity the old

and shun him with condescension.

But he sees well enough,

his eyes still sharp and his mind able to keep up, if not surpass.

 

Broken glass dropped by his hand, lying on the hard wood floor,

the house that was built generations before is now too expensive to be bought by anyone

and debts are accrued, banks holding the cards

and arrogantly so.

He worked hard

and now his health is fading.

 

What you are when you are young,

is what you will be when you are old, he said to me in whispers.

No smart man ever became a fool

except for where the brain is diseased;

likewise, no fool ever became wise.

I knew a man once who died because he could not love.

 

He could not love himself

or others

and he drank and fought

and soon his heart turned black.

My daughter married a man

who had money, but no heart. She did well.

 

Standing by a hole in the ground

watching the rain water fill that black gap in the earth,

feet slipping in the mud.

They lowered the coffin in,

but who ever dies?

No one? Everyone? It’s hard to tell.

Friday night, 1997

Locked gate with heavy rusted lock,

Metal fence with chain link,

One section broken, wire opens back like a flap of skin,

Allows us to duck in.

Cement columns holding up the highway,

The overpass, dirt floor and vandalised walls.

Someone has a fire burning in a metal barrel.

The kids stand around nervously warming their hands in the strange half light.

Cigarettes and laughter, stories of sex and drugs

I watch mesmorised as two older kids kiss,

The girl has dark hair and black eyes.

A firecracker is lit and explodes in the night,

The sound of traffic above is a roar

And the night runs on like sharp needles and broken bottles.

A homeless man was murdered here

Simon claims.

John, the school’s football hero,

Sneers and takes his three friends away.

But we sit by the fire on the cold cement ledge

And talk about Mickey and how he and Wade were arrested one night

And someone throws another bottle and we watch it explode into shards.

Tom and Ben would have to sleep in the abandoned shop on main street

Because they’d been kicked out of home.

They sit apart and look thin and proud.

Jenny’s mother has a new boyfriend and she can’t stand him

Sandy is pregnant and Mat wants her to abort it,

Robert is gay

And his boyfriend will be here soon.

Friday night, winter, thoughts of girls and grown up jobs,

No money to spend and stolen beer.

washing day

Fabric softener destroys the machine,

The machine that spits out wet clothes, half clean.

 

The clothes that dry so quickly in summer,

Under that cancer giving sun

 

Hang soggy on the stretched line and grasp at the grass

That has turned a peculiar sickening brown.

 

Walking out on that winter day

To get away from the smell of clothes

 

I see a man come out of a café

With a face wrinkled so badly, that his eyes are invisible.

 

He looks at me as if he knows me,

I look at him, but look away.

 

It’s so cold, I step into a supermarket

And pick up a basket and walk the isles.

 

The old man with the brown folded face is there too,

He walks toward me, then steps aside at the last moment.

 

The bright shopping centre lights

The old hard bread; the pink deli meat makes me tired.

 

I walk home as the dark evening falls

And I know the clothes on the line will still be wet.