history

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.

The young poet

In a small house on Rumber Lane,

a boy lived with his mother and sister.

This boy spent his time in books

And dreamed of composing lines of glory.

 

The young poet, standing in the hall with the last shadows of day,

Watched the beetles make their way across the stone floor.

Looking up as the trees turned gold in the last rays,

He saw the neighbour coming home from work.

 

The neighbour, a big man, carried his bag on his shoulder

And smiled arrogantly at the women passing by.

The young poet watched how the man moved,

 With the wide heavy motions he made.

 

The neighbour’s daughter would meet the boys by the river

On Sunday afternoons

And raise her dress for them.

She wore no underwear.

 

The young poet was never invited, but

By hiding in the trees

He had seen her reveal herself,

Her body golden, shining like embers.

 

He had only a few friends, one boy,

With a sour breath, smelled of piss.

This boy would wet himself in class.

Deep down the young poet despised him.

 

The night grown dark,

The young poet turns to his book and reads.

Writing down words of interest,

And reciting lines that appealed to him.

An old man remembers his days

 

What happens to our time once it’s past?

Weeks melt into years

Success and tragedy,

Lunch and dinner,

Trips overseas,

Love affairs

All eaten up by time

Until Sunday night comes and silently crying

You wonder where it all went

And you are lucky to take another breath

At 85.

He was lucky to succeed, only out of university by five years

And already managing his own branch.

Flying in and out of Europe,

Nights in New York.

She always had shiny hair

And all the money she wanted.

Her baby was born healthy,

he held her hand as they left the hospital.

But he drank

And she was selfish.

He died one night in the rain

When his car crashed into a tree.

She was shocked for a while,

But life goes on.

She married again,

And had another child.

This one was not so well.

Her black hair turned grey

And life sped away.

Never to know the secrets of the universe,

Never to stand above all,

But watch the sunset and the pink evening sky

And take pleasure in the small things.

 

Broken and beaten at last

The old man sits in his home

Thinking about the things that had past.

Red sky at night,

The blueness of the Pacific Ocean,

The softness of his first love.

The memories flashed into him like electric shocks,

His son, drunk, crashed his car into a tree

And he was lost fifty years ago.

His daughter in law

Only interested in clothes and cars

And meeting strange men in bars.

Their daughter had grown up

To be a surprisingly good woman.

Responsible and happy.

It was a pleasure that she was nothing like her parents.

The man smiled and closed his eyes,

The heater was warm and helped him dream of times gone.

The time he bought a boat and sailed around the Islands,

The time he cut a fingertip off while building his house.

Regretting nothing, but knowing he never beat the world.

The world had the better of him.

No one came to see him for his birthday,

But listening to the rain on the road outside,

He heard a train pulling on the slight incline,

And wondered what the news would bring on world affairs

Tomorrow.

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.

A memory replayed after class

 

Sitting on a timber chair, under a tree,

the clouds came rushing across the city

and dropped a flood of rain upon the university quadrangle.

Ivy hung off the stone buildings, peeling away from the ancient walls

And yellow lights came through the leadlight windows

In a warm glow, like comforting winter fires.

I arose and walked under cover.

Earlier, I had spoken to some English students.

“Why do you write?” one girl asked me.

I looked at the faces before me,

They were bored, and I had lost them.

The teachers sat down the back of the class; their eyes fixed on me like predators,

While the students sat with wide eyes, all blank looks and casual clothes,

With years ahead of them,

Years to achieve their dreams,

But more likely not.

Finished, I walked out of the class

And sat in the chair under the tree.

I thought about the time the fox had eaten all her chickens,

On that old farm

And she had cried

As rain clouds gathered over the lake.

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.

Rental

“He stayed here two years,

before the end.

Did I tell you about Sam?” Mrs. Kubowicz asked me.

“No,” I said, “I don’t know him.”

Mrs. Kubowicz leaned against the wall and looked at me with happy eyes.

“This was his room. He was a very kind, quiet man.

He was six foot seven tall. I called him my gentle giant.

We were very close. We would watch television at night,

do you like to watch detective shows?” She asked me.

“Not much,” I answered. I did not like the look on her face; she looked disappointed.

 

She held her hand out to the room. I stepped inside and looked about.

“Why did he move out?” I asked.

A cowboy hat hung on the wall next to a picture of cattle on a farm.

The place not only had furniture, but belongings.

Models of trucks sat on a shelf above the window.

“He died. Suddenly. He crashed his truck on the highway to Canberra.

Killed him instantly.”

“Are these his things?”
“Yes, I can’t bring myself to throw them out, no one came to collect them.”

It was a small room, but it had its own bathroom and a space to cook. I liked the independence.

“I’ll take it.”

 

I settled on the bed and looked up at the ceiling.

It was quiet. Somewhere in the house, Mrs. Kubowicz moved about.

The vacuum came on.

I rolled on my side and opened the bedside drawer.

There sat an open box of condoms, some bills, and a notebook.

I opened the notebook and read a few pages.

The man’s life was recorded daily.

The last entry was dated five weeks ago.

It was a list of expenses. Rent had been crossed out and ‘zero’ written in.

I wondered how he managed free rent.

The Lady’s garden.

Through the day garden walked the knight.

He looked at the beds, heavy with flowers

then glancing up as one might at a bird,

his eyes land on her window.

 

What softer bed behind those curtains,

what pleasures a visitor to her room might see;

might experience.

The mail-heavy arm against the silk curtains, hard flesh on gossamer skin.

 

He has seen war

and knows what war brings,

the faithful and faithless both scream when pinned down with steel.

Men, both brown and white, crying in terror at the onrushing machine.

 

He stops a while beside a lily and considers the soft opening of the blue flower

he sees a bee, heavy with baggage climbing down the flower’s throat.

From habit, his hand grips his sword handle.

He imagines a time when this garden might be his as well as hers.

A disease

She broke a stick on the ground

and held it up to me.

‘See there, where it broke? A weakness, there’s a knot.’

She’s always pointing out people’s weaknesses.

Nobody has strength like her,

no one has intelligence as fine as she does.

But instead of being humble and kind in her greatness,

she wants to break people down all the time.

 

Last month she was told she has cancer.

She shrugged her shoulders and said

‘It happens to people all the time, why shouldn’t it happen to me?’

I said nothing.

She asked me over to her house yesterday

and when I came in, I could see she had been crying.

‘Why me?’ she asked.

I held her hand. It was cold as if she were already dead.

 

A short folktale from Sinsinarta

chinese-tiger-painting-T5830

There was once a man named Ligo who left his village due to the incessant teasing from the local people. He was an ugly man and his brown skin was striped because of a rare skin condition. He had a large flat nose and his eyes were sunken into his head. The young people called him ‘tiger’ because of his appearance.

He went into the jungle, down where the river runs thick and hot. He hoped to be found by the tigers who lived down there and eaten.

After a few days following tracks he discovered a tiger living in a den by the river. Ligo hid in the rocks over looking the tigers den and after a few hours the tiger emerged. Ligo was struck with terror and regretted his decision. He did not want to be killed now and in his fear he began to cry. The tiger halted and looked about, smelling the air with deep breaths. He saw Ligo and stared at him a long time. Ligo, still crying, closed his eyes and waited his fate. The tiger however laughed and said,

“Man, why have you come to my den? Are you sick of life or are you hunting me or perhaps both? Speak.”
Having never seen a talking tiger before. Ligo gasped.
“Speak!” the tiger demanded in a voice so awful, Ligo was half dead with fear already.
“I have come to be killed,” he stammered.

The tiger laughed.
“It is easily done, but first tell me why you want to die?”
Logo stood up slowly and lifted his shirt and showed the tiger his striped skin. “My village have disowned me and call me ugly. They say my father was a tiger,”

The tiger nodded and leaped upon the rocks, landing next to Ligo who fell to his knees and raised his hands.

The tiger sniffed him and looked at his skin closely. “Are you ready to die?” the tiger asked.

“No, I thought I was but I had not considered how terrible it is.”
“Then I can give you a second chance. I want you to guard my den. I will be away until sunset, stay here and admit no one until I return and I will spare your life. Inside my den there is a hunters spear. Take it and use it in your duty.”
Ligo agreed and climbed down the rocks. He found the spear and took a position outside the den. The tiger nodded goodbye and left him.

After only a short time a huge black monster, shaped like a giant dog but with huge red eyes and teeth like whale bones came up the path, it was dragging the tiger along by it’s head. The tiger was limp and appeared to be dead. The monster came close to the den and dropped the large cat, who moved a little and looked about.

“So is this your den?” the monster growled.

“Yes,” the tiger moaned.

“And you have three fresh deer carcasses inside?”
“I have, they are yours.”
Ligo moved behind a tree, he was terrified of being discovered.

“You were foolish to think you could beat me,” the monster continued. “I will not spare your life.” the monster raised it’s paw and was about to deliver a dreadful blow upon the cat when Ligo, possessed by an unknown vigor, rushed from his hiding place and stabbed the spear deep into the monster’s chest.

The monster screamed and fell over, dead.

The tiger looked at Ligo in surprise.

“Thank you,” the tiger said. “You have killed a very terrible demon.”

The monster lay dead at Ligo’s feet. It’s bright red eyes began to fade to black.

“If you will nurse me to health, I will grant you a wish.”

Ligo took care of the huge beast until it was again in perfect health.

The tiger turned to him. “what do you wish?” he asked.

“I would like to popular and accepted in my village.”
“I cannot control the people in your village, but I can offer you a better life. Take the demons skin for armor and make a dagger of one of his teeth. Cut off his tale and turn it into a club. You will be invincible with these weapons. I will come to the village and I will allow you to drive me away. They will see this and reveal themselves to you.”

Ligo, although confused by the tiger’s words, did as he was told and returned home dressed in the demon’s fur carrying his weapons. For a moment the people were silent, but soon one of the bolder boys began to taunt him and throw stones at him.

“You’re the bastard son of a tiger’s whore!” the boy screamed.

Ligo saw the faces of the village turn to mock him.

A roar, like thunder ripped through the trees and the tiger landed upon the boy who had been throwing stones and ripped him in two. The villages were struck with terror, they began to scream and run about.

Ligo raised his club and rushed at the tiger, the tiger seeing the terrible weapon turned and fled.

The villagers were silent, a look of fear had replaced the looks of disgust. They were too terrified to speak to him and they fainted or ran into the trees when he approached them. Ligo felt as alone as he ever had. Taking a supply of food he set out into the jungle, deciding to see what else the world could offer him.

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