How long?

How long, how long, how long, how long, to sing this song?
— U2, channelling the Psalmist

The music's cruisy     trancy     wordless

The father walks away
from the mother
On the father's hip the baby cries Mamma Mamma
The father walks away
so the mother can do
the workshop
On the father's hip the baby cries Mamma Mamma

Is he old enough already
to learn that his mum
is a person?

Or is he young enough still
to learn that Mother
is not
always
Mother?

Now the music
is American hiphop
Niggaz bitchez
money in yo pocketz

The father comes back
with the baby
The mother is dancing
The music's cruisy again
The baby? Silent

Mamma, Mamma — a moment?
Mamma, Mamma — eternity?
Mamma, Mamma —
how long?

First published in Poetry Matters

my mother

my mother smells
like cat: tongue licking kitten;
like homespun: wool-grease, warmth;
like eggshell, like duckpond;
like ocean: iodine, fins;
like oils wet on canvas;
like tripe, like boiled cabbage;
like baked apples and ginger biscuits;
like slept-in ‘Tweed by Lentheric’;
like cold morning ash;
like yellowing paper;
like glass

First published in Creatrix

The baby getting smaller dream

My baby     He was shrinking away from me
I set him on his feet but he could no longer stand
He was growing smaller
I set him on his feet
but he could no longer stand
He curled up at the foot of a door
My baby     Shrinking away from me
I set him on his feet
but his legs gave way
and he sank
Curled up on concrete
at the foot of a door
My baby

First published in Poetry Matters 25, November 2015

Craig’s eyes were clear and focussed

25 August 2012

There was almost a fight
at Perth Poetry Club today
but it wasn’t cool
it wasn’t funny

Some poor kid
He’s at least 50
probably older
but he doesn’t get it
He calls me a stupid bitch
a lesbian
Not for the first time
I wish I was

Later Chris reads Steve’s poem
about the dominatrix
I don’t want to think about it
Some poor kid
full of booze and drugs
finds his tongue between a prostitute’s
pantless legs
It isn’t cool
It isn’t funny
Even if once
someone did
take a photo
of me at a student party
tequila slammed
with my head in some loser’s
unzipped lap
It wasn’t cool
It wasn’t funny
But you’ll have to forgive me
I was only a kid

Afterwards a few of us
sit around
Lorenna is drinking too fast
Her eyes are starting to glaze
She’s a colourful wrap
around a ball of darkness
She says I should try
The Spirit Molecule
Craig agrees
Sometimes with Craig it’s like
he’s hearing some other voice
and can’t really see me
but today he’s okay

I try to go home
but I get on the wrong train
end up at Cannington station
There’s nothing there
just buses to a couple
of shopping malls
I come back to town
but I miss the home train
The next one doesn’t come
for twenty-seven minutes
I’m hungry

I don’t want Chinese Vietnamese Vietnamese Chinese Korean Mexican Japanese Italian expensive-hip or Greek
I want my mother’s cooking

I end up in Outback Jack’s Bar & Grill
A shed full of tourists and carnivores
A giant green styrofoam croc
hangs
upside-down
on chains
from the ceiling
The girl waiters
wear synthetic Akubras
The boy waiters get to look normal
The peppermills are a metre long
and painted
to look in-didj-enous
On the walls grey photos
hang askew
A man kissing a camel
A man on a horse
kicking up dust
Wheat
growing
where once there were trees

The screens play music videos
Tamworth country
St Kilda rock
Here’s INXS
Michael Hutchence
His face so fresh
I remember watching this video
a long time ago
in someone’s college room

Michael Hutchence
had too much X-factor
for Perth
but this was his hometown
and those kids with guitars
were his mates
In some warehouse
some carpark
he sings
Don’t change a thing

In the end the poor kid hanged himself
in a hotel room
a long way from here
One of his friends
wrote a song
You’re stuck in a moment
and you can’t get out of it

There was almost a fight
at Perth Poetry Club today
It wasn’t cool
It wasn’t funny
But a poetry professor
came to hear the words
some kid
bought one of my zines
and Craig’s eyes
were clear and focussed
He says he has
a guitar again