East Street

From the roof of the flats on East Street I can see the ships in the harbour and on the sea lined up, coming and going and waiting.

All night from my futon lying on the nylon carpet in the ground floor flat on East Street I can hear the cranes unloading the stuff from Asia and I wonder if the ships go back empty because the ore is loaded at other ports like Hedland and Dampier.

Opposite the flats on East Street is a red pillarbox from which we can send a letter to anywhere.

In through the western windows and across the flat on East Street sweeps the sea-scented wind, past my bin and bookcase and over my desk and out.

When a sheep ship comes in, the air on East Street smells like a sewer in a third-world country such as England in the time of Dickens.

The sewers under the ground around East Street don’t have much of a history as far as I know.

When a sheep ship is tied to the wharf the air on East Street brings me the sweat and shit of thousands of captive bodies whose flesh will be sold for profit.

The red pillarbox on East Street somehow still belongs to the government, or perhaps it belongs to the Queen whose initials are probably not on it, or perhaps like the wind on East Street it belongs to no-one.

When the air on East Street smells of captive bodies it’s hard to work without closing the windows and lighting a candle scented with rose or vanilla.

The candles in the flat on East Street were bought from Dusk, a candle retailing corporation.

The candles in the flat on East Street are made from wax taken and modified maybe from the hives of bees, maybe from some black-slicked well in the earth, maybe from somewhere else: I’ve never thought to ask, and I don’t suppose the assistant in Dusk would know.

When my daughter was in the flat on East Street writing, on the paper she’d bought from a stationery retailing corporation with money she got by selling her time and labour to a fast food marketing and retailing corporation, her first paper letter to a friend in Brisbane, she lit her own candle also bought from Dusk but made with soy wax.

No bees were harmed that day in the flat on East Street or so she said.

As she wrote I cleaned the windows and oven and the visible parts of the fridge of the flat on East Street to maintain my good relationship with the property manager from the accommodation and lifestyle marketing corporation, who is coming on Thursday to inspect and report to the owner, a chef named Michael who feeds the workers of the mining corporations, and I saw how the candle grew smaller and the letter grew longer and the gases from the candle and our bodies put smells in the air.

The report on the flat on East Street will say ‘Clean and tidy throughout’ and ‘Tenant presents a lovely home — thank you.’

The op-shop (Where does it end?)

We came out of the op-shop with a fitted sheet,
a packet of birthday cards and a cutlery drainer.
We chose the white mesh cutlery drainer as a pen-holder
for our desk. The sheet is red, for our latest bed.
The cards are to send to those who expect a card
and, more importantly, to those who don't.

We like to look in the op-shop because of the randomness.
There's always more things we think we need.
We dry ourselves on flat scratchy towels from the past,
their terrycloth loops reduced to threads by washing
and washing and washing and rubbing on skin and rubbing
on skin and rubbing on skin. Our vintage singlets
are ragged at the armholes and hems, but we can't fix
their machine-knitted network. Better to turn them
into carry bags, or something. We could spend
our one-room evenings turning rags into things.

Perhaps the op-shop has some shirts in colours
other than black. In Kundalini Yoga
teachers wear white. It extends their aura by a foot.
(How can an aura be measured with Imperial tape?)
But Buddhist monks wear orange. That's their rule.

At the op-shop we were lucky to get a fitted sheet
so new. And so red. I think of your red
wedding sheets, your Oriental guide.
I think of my intellectual vices. I think
of the poster on the wall of the Juicy Beetroot: a speaker
from the All India Progressive Women's Association.
Where is the Australian branch? We could meet
in the back room of the op-shop. We could meet
in the Juicy Beetroot. We could meet in Forrest Place
with an enormous banner and a permit from the police.

We could live a year buying nothing except from an op-shop,
and have more money for intellectual vices.
The minds of leisured young men. The hubris
of the Augustans. Pope with his buttoned-up couplets.
Wordsworth on his gap year. His longhand passport.
A rearrangement of the books, piled higher and deeper.
Beckett with his terrible tramps. Plath with her blood-jet.
Where does it end? Where do we put the singlet

that is too ragged for the op-shop whose purpose is not
to recycle but to generate money? In the cleaning aisles
of K-Mart and Bunnings there are packets of rags for sale.
Don't the people use old towels and singlets?
If this were India we could sell our rags by the road
instead of working for the minimum wage in an op-shop.

First published in Not Entirely Present

Steve Smart at La Tropicana

The purple-nailed, blacksuited,
mad-hatted, workbooted,
vodka-drinking, rollie-sucking,
McCartney-bashing, Lennon-hugging,
clanging, slanging, banging, whanging,
smoothfaced and making up for it
poems

Here’s Jack White*, with Satan still in front of him and without
the marimba

— Ain’t that a kick in the head?

Nah, it’s a bottle of vodka
Drown yourself

*From The White Stripes

(First published in The Word Is Out)