poetry

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.

Advertisements

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.

A memory

I remember walking through the streets of Temora

Going home one night after a party.

And Darren stopping and pointing out the stars,

Telling me about the constellations and planets

That are visible each night.

These planets, out of reach, make each night unique.

 

He told me:

There was an Indigenous people,

Who believed

That each star was a hole

Torn in the night

By a spear thrown

And each shooting star

Was an spear falling.

 

His love of knowledge,

His kindness, his dreams.

His fiery ambitions toward politics,

And his ability to debate,

Made up a good life.

All stories come to an end,

And he is now out of reach.

But the happiness he brought to those who liked or loved him

Make his life unique.

New life.

Sitting by the cradle, next to my son,

I listen to the wind howl outside.

Winter is ending and leaving on frosty wheels.

I close my eyes and think of things I do not have.

These thoughts are like a worm

That burrows into my head.

My father’s painting hangs on the wall

And the yellow light picks up the brush strokes.

I concentrate on the oil painting and clear my thoughts.

My baby sighs and makes a sound like birdsong,

And my thoughts fall upon the future.

Life is sadness and joy,

 

As it is darkness and light.

 

This yellow room,

The painting on the wall,

The wind against the window and

My son dreaming in his bed,

What joy.

But time moves on, seasons change and soon the morning will

Walk across this very roof.

Enjoy and be satisfied with what you have,

Success lies in happiness.

On a birthday

Running the hot water in the shower,

Waiting until boiling,

The steam rises toward the ceiling.

Early morning, the lights flicker,

Still dark outside.

Heading to hospital

For a birth. A new day,

Yesterday a setback, a failure.

Sadness, anger.

Today is unknown.

The cold air, red faced

Scream as the air enters your lungs

An air that kills.

The world is cruel.

Mothers have done this forever.

Empty seat on the bus,

As school children eye me from the windows.

I walk along the street and recall

Being screamed at from buses after school.

Buses don’t have windows that open now.

They stared at you silently.

One day soon, my child will go to school.

May that day be gentle,

May the future be sweet.

 

 

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.

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.