Tuesday, March 29, 2005
after Les Vieux by Jacques Brel
They can't speak, or if they do it's only Morse-coding with their eyelids.
Even if they are rich, they are really all poor. They can't be fooled. They have to share one liver between two.
At home it smells like apples, Ajax, Derrida and the lost bong. If they live in Paris, they really live in Sydney, when they have lived too long.
The party's over, their voice cracks when recounting it.
They've come through Hell, there's a moist eye for that too.
And if they tremble a little, it's just from seeing their money grow.
Their books sleep, their pianos are closed, the kitten dies, Sunday's daiquiri can no longer make them sing.
Their world is just too small - they hover between the bed and the window- between the bed and the T.V. - and finally, between the bed and the bed.
If they still get out, arm in squeaky arm, it's to follow the sun or to bury someone with a maudlin thought.
They kill time with a little cry, and forget a whole hour has passed. But the clock still hums.
They do not die, they fall asleep one day and just sleep too long.
Take their hand, they are afraid of losing themselves, a cup of tea prickles under the sprinkler on the lawn.
One of them always survives, for better or worse. But who cares? The survivor has re-curtained.
Yes, I saw her in the rain. She was crossing the street in front of me, excusing herself for not being further along; girdled with a bomb that still hums a showy tune:
"Yes! No! I'm waiting!"
"Yes! No! I'm waiting!"
We're all waiting.
Friday, March 25, 2005
in the midst of our
There it is! Dad saw it winking up ahead. On the slow
rise. A Browning. Its delayed yackety-yak plastering
millions of pine needles. "You two, get over there!" Dad
and some old Codger got up and began their zigzag
through the trees and out along the field. They were running
up into hundreds of rounds that petered and twisted
just out of range. So far so good. Each time they crossed,
they looked at each other from under their stoops. "You still
alive?" or "Me too!". Anybody's guess. They got as far
as where the dirt coughed-up, and fell onto their stomachs.
Codger then crawled to Dad (he was seventeen) spitting soil
and asked him if he wanted to stop for a smoke. It was his first.
He would only give up after his heart attack. Dad is Tony,
but he was Günter then. No German names in the forties
in Australia. But in France, below the bullet-sphere, he sputtered
his first filter-less. There was a lull. Just a couple of guys
lying in the sun. Ducks flew south and a skein of clouds
ravelled overhead. Warmed up by their run, the panic backwashed
onto their calm, and they shivered. "So what if we get to them?
We're retreating anyway!" "You have a point," Codger replied.
"We've fought hard in our own style." They laughed. "Chipped
at the crust like Hindus, as they say!" Codger took a last drag.
"Yes, we've done enough today for the Fatherland". And they scrapped
back to the trees. They were court-martialled. Dad spent
the rest of his time at the front delivering soup. Once, as he was
carrying a full tureen in each hand, a volley of mortars puffed out
in the canopy overhead. A cocktail of leaves and branches fizzed over.
He looked up, he was flat on the ground, he felt his own warm blood
running down his shirt and pants. The hurt would come soon, ... soon...
Nothing. He stood up and walked back to the wagon, still holding onto
the empty handles. He shone in the dark with his cigarette.
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
I paged you at the airport, and you called me
from inside the toilet next to Gate B3. Your story
about the cobalt tiles and the felt-pen circles somebody
drew along the grouting reminded me to buy something
for your sister. The ginseng and lavender pot-pourri baby
bath-set was on special in the duty free. We decided
to meet later that day in the park after your trip.
At the sinkhole. I'd forgotten to lay out the wallpaper
samplers for John, so I was going to be late. It was a hot day,
a summer storm was forecasted and the newspapers licked
clammily off the couch. That's when I spotted the article:
The Limestone Prisons used by Florida's Seminole Indians. That's
where you lost your sunglasses. It must be ten years now. Beneath the oak
on the Hollywood reservation. The carbonate rock, the runny walls, the slow
sizzling calcium nibs. Just under our feet at the park, I told you,
the same thing was happening. Your face dropped. "Just like my soufflés?"
The whole next day was a frothy heat. But Friday was a tornado. A few trees
fell on cars, and branches with still-green leaves lay about the drive-way.
The kids brought a couple out the back, and they added a menthol tang
to the barbecue on Sunday. Then you told me about your trip.
No bonus this quarter, but they were hiring for the new office. "Growth
is never performance ..." - something deep after a few beers.
Monday, March 21, 2005
You pull on
your blazer with the first push
of wind confined
to the river. You notice
the minivan parked
on the gravel behind
Later, at the traffic lights,
up from the serpentine:
a girl on a scooter. A click
means stop. Her right foot
lifts off the back brake
as she jerks up. But
before she treads the tarmac: a waver
at the fork
and she's off... as if
what has been said before.
The hanging bats,
an earlier summer
in this gully.
of concrete rolls down
the safety ramp.
Something's up there.
A rifle cracks. The van goes down.
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
Man seeks Woman
Julius was early. He sat at the table in the corner and ordered a drink. This was his first internet date and he was feeling rather anxious. "Cara"(if that was her real name) suggested "The Blue Dolphin". It was quiet enough for conversation but lively enough to melt into the crowd.
Julius wasn't worried so much about how he would come across, but about being stuck with someone he didn't like for the whole evening. So, as a precaution, he timed his cell phone to beep at 30 minutes after she planned to arrive. This 'text message' would either be ignored (she was OK) or require urgent attention (she was a bore).
When she arrived, he recognized Cara immediately from her picture on the dating site. Instinctively, he stood up and waved. However, realizing this was probably a telltale sign of a first timer, he quickly sat down again. CRUNCH! He had sat on his cell phone which he had carefully put in the pocket of his coat draped over the back of his seat. Of course, the phone must now be broken, as he felt something sharp pierce his left buttock.
He was so stunned by the pain that he didn't notice Cara already standing over him at the table.
"Hello,... Julius? --- I'm Cara"
Julius looked up with tears in his eyes.
"Hmmooooh Mcaaarraaahh - ayemmm Joohooliussss, nice toooohh meeeetyahhioooyyyou"
He had to regain composure before she thought she was about to date someone with cerebral palsy.
Julius slowly stood up with a forced smile and extended his clammy hand.
"I --- I'm sorry. Ha! Ha! I'm Julius, nice to meet you."
That 'Ha! Ha!' sounded more like the death throes of a wood planer than a laugh.
They shook hands and she took her seat. Julius froze.
He became wide-eyed at the thought of putting weight on his backside again, so he resigned to telling the truth knowing the evening was ruined anyway. Cara took the news well and was quite sympathetic.
"Oh my God! You poor thing! Let me have a look."
"What? No, it's alright. I apologize for ... Look, I'd better get home ..."
"No, please. Don't be silly." She was beaming now. "You know, I'm a nurse."
"That's right. Let's just quickly pop into the toilet. Just quickly. And I'll see what I can do just to make sure you're alright."
Julius craned his neck towards where the toilets were.
"Toilets?" She was going to see his ass.
Before he could react, she was holding his arm, walking him to the toilets.
One of the waiters who noticed something odd asked them if everything was fine.
"Please, are the toilets through here? This man may have been injured," Cara trumpeted.
"Yes. Yes, of course, through the door on the right"
The waiter automatically fell in behind. "Where has he been injured? Shall I call an ambulance? Is there anything I can do?"
"Have you got a first aid kit?"
"Yes, we do. I'll get it." He was going to see his ass too.
"We'll go into the ladies. It's all cubicles in there!" she laughed.
"Oooh," she said, crouching behind him staring at the bright red spot on his pants.
"Ouch," he said as she began poking into the puncture hole in the cloth.
"Look, I'll have to see if there is any plastic in the wound. Could give you a nasty infection. Drop your slacks!"
He wanted then and there to take control and put an end to the examination when the waiter thundered in with a first aid kit.
"Good, thanks. Now I can clean it up for you as well."
Julius gritted his teeth and thought, "oh well, I can't physically clean it up by myself ..."
He slowly turned and saw that the waiter was accompanied by a beefy kitchen hand with rubber wash gloves on. He panicked.
"Look, I don't think ... Please, don't bother, I'm sure it's not ..."
"Loosen your belt, I'll do it for you"
His left cheek was exposed. He heard the door swing again. This time it was the head chef followed by some of his assistants asking if they could help.
He must have had an audience of least five or six examining his ass.
Cara then turned to her audience and began to lecture them on how they should examine a wound for any foreign bodies. Then she got each one of them to try.
"This will come in handy should you have any cuts with loose or breakable implements in the kitchen. See, press the sides like this. No, no, no. Take your gloves off first."
Suddenly the door swung open again. It was another waiter holding his coat.
"I'm sorry to disturb you, sir, but your coat was beeping so much it began to annoy the other diners."
"The phone still works!" he thought.
He reluctantly chanced another look behind. Through the toilet door he saw a small crowd of people craning their necks to get a better look.
Julius had only just met Cara and already he had five people - both sexes - touching his butt. Complete with an audience.
Friday, March 04, 2005
12 Dundas St, Coogee
What have we done to deserve
all the produce of the tropics--
this fiery trove, the largesse of it
heaped up like cannonballs, these pineapples, bossed
and crested, standing like troops at attention,
these tiers, these balconies of green, festoons
grown sumptuous with stoop labor?
from Nothing Stays Put by Amy Clampitt