literature

No ghosts

She used to play the piano in the lounge room

Until her hands hurt too much, and she could no longer move her fingers across the keys.

Then, she spent her time by the large bay windows, letting the breeze cool her of an evening. 

She only had a few months of that, then she died.

One morning I came to her room and knocked. 

She was dead in her bed. 

We buried her; I played some piano music from an expensive speaker.

What could I do with the piano?
There was nothing to do so I left it in the lounge room. 

I sat in front of the bay window and let the breeze drift across me.

The house is empty and silent without her

I imagine her ghost in the room

But what frightens me most of all

Is that there are no ghosts.

Kokoro

The piano teacher set out the rules of attraction

Mine were of trouble.

“Kokoro,” I called out.

The slim, attractive woman appeared. She was a child of God. That is what she called herself.

“Tell me of your dream,” I asked.

The cat’s cradle, she said, I dreamed it was under fire.

There was a death

Even while we followed the rules for life.

Resurrection.

At swim, all my friends felt pleasure and sorrow.

The correction, Charlie travels here today.

A war crime.

I held up my hand

“You watch too much of the news before bed,” I said.

Smiling, she patted at her dress and turned to leave.

“Stay,” I asked. “It is early. We can watch the sunrise from the balcony.”
The city was yellow with lights, the last of the night sat uneasily

With the sun on the horizon.  

Summer Swimming

We would go swimming on summer afternoons
We were so thin and fit
Walking on those baked sidewalks of cement and red dirt
We would cut through the city streets carrying our towels.

The Saturday afternoons were ours alone
We had a special key and could enter the closed pool
We would swim and watch the sunset
The magpies, at peace, in the huge trees by the fence.

She would swim and dive in the cool blue water
I would grunt and struggle to complete my twenty laps
We would walk home in the evening redness
She would sing softly a tune about summer

That one summer, I wanted it to last forever
The Weekend evenings
We would also, sometimes, go at five am on weekdays
The water unbelievably cold, and we unbelievably tired.

It ended. We parted
As Autumn came, I would go bike riding and running
She preferred the gym and yoga
The swimming was something we would do again, but alone.

Harbour Street

Where I used to live
In a room in the corner of an old brick building
The streets would stretch out in all directions
Some winding down beside the river, some disappearing through horse lanes
One stopped at a rock cliff
The last one ending at the harbour.

A man lived in a building opposite, and he would dress up each day
Winter or summer, In a thick coat
And head down to the water to fish
His wife would wait for him
She would clean the house
Talk to the neighbours
Go out sometimes on her own.

They had lived in that house for fifty-eight years.
She had a stroke one winter afternoon
The man would only fish once a week, then
He had to stay home and look after her
He grew thinner
I never saw her again

One night, at midnight,
There was a funny smell like toast being burned and burned
Then the street filled with smoke
And there were sirens and fire trucks stuffed into that old street
So nothing could move; even the hoses had a hard time getting out
An electric blanket had smouldered into flame and killed them both

Seafresh Laundry, 31 Beckworth Street

Sarah worked in the laundry,

She worked hard

Her hands red, and back sore

She wore the uniform, a blue dress

Twice divorced, kids in the Catholic school

She never had enough money, even with the Sunday shift. 

Henry drove and unloaded the trucks

A lady’s man, he took to Sarah 

And pursued her, winning her eventually. 

Henry never could value things correctly

And his days of breaking and lying were far from over.

Sarah had a recurring dream

Where she was on holiday 

In a beach resort where she was swimming in the sea,

Her foot caught in rocks, the ocean rising

She could not breathe, and choking she would wake. 

Henry saw her do this twice

And eating breakfast with her kids in the last morning 

He sneered at the daughter and asked her what she wanted to do in life

The daughter looked down at the table and did not speak.

Henry set his eye to find new pastures.

Sarah pushed the load into the dryer

And wondered where things went wrong

And that surely they would improve.

Steam rose from the top of the vent

And out a window into the cold day

Age

The clouds parted

and like light through the trees,

the sun danced around the puddles

shining like coins on the wet, shiny stones.

My legs hurt from sitting down all day

and I didn’t feel well

I was too fat

and the less I did the lazier I became.

The oval was wet

and the heels of my boots sunk into the muddy grass

and I remembered when I was a boy

that I loved to wade through puddles and sink into mud.

I was so thin when I was young,

and full of energy

but I could sleep for 12 hours straight too if I wanted.

Those times seem lost now,

gone cheaply

as if I took fifteen years of my life and set them on fire.

Visions of clay and dust

At 5:03am I have visions of 5:04,

The alarm clock shines out green in the night

And someone has broken the glass behind which the electronic numbers shine

The cracks like spiderwebs, glisten

As I wait for the numbers to change.

On the St. Kilda pier yesterday

I picked up a starfish that had been left to die on a bench by a fisherman

I peeled him off the cold wood and held his sticky body

And wondered if he were alive,

Then I dropped him over the side into the black water

And he sunk slowly

Like a dream disappearing into the clouds. 

I read in the newspaper of some fool

Who broke his leg in New York 

And boasted he could drink like Ernest Hemingway

And that he sat in a bar New York the night his leg snapped

Slumped over a drink opposite David Lowy

That airplane millionaire.

At 5:03, it makes me think of money

And investing.

An oil man stands in my mind

Telling me he has been broke 4 times and is now richer than ever

“Borrow money, put it in the share market” he roars “what could go wrong?

If you should bust, go again, who cares?”

It is still 5:03. 

A woman laughs about how clever she is

Her daughter writes of the pain of love

A man with a pencil thin beard and a ludicrously large baseball cap

Is nodding silently in a bar.

I can see him from my window. 

“Borrow that money and put it all on shares” the oil man yells

“Wait outside women’s toilets and ask them to go to bed with you…”

 

Still it is 5:03 and the world is crazy.

The world is always crazy at the end of a minute.

I picture 5:04 and the peace it will bring.  

Rushing fire

Pack it away with the toys and the books,

those days of dreaming.

The dark stain on the rug pushed under an old chair

that spews dust with every pat.

A scream from under the fridge,

milk running down the door and drying in a neat puddle.

A text from a friend saying ‘don’t worry about me’

Delete

an email for a sale on now.

Light a candle and fall asleep,

wait for another hand to snuff the flame,

a lover’s hand,

the candle burns to a nub and smoke drifts gently to the ceiling

a black mark.

Remember the handshake where he held your hand too tightly, for too long

And remember the dream where standing in your backyard,

your saw a mushroom cloud rising in the south

and you pray that it is far enough away that you are not killed

by the rushing fire.

 

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.