A man on the train

A man on the train
I’m opposite him

A sagfaced man
     who must once have been fat
A man perhaps forty
     with thinning dark hair
     a rough laugh
     and a phone to his ear
A man in black sunglasses
     on this grey day
A man whose open shirt lapels
     frame a small show
     of dark body hair
     on wan skin

A man who has known violence
I see that somehow in the way he sits

A man wearing terrible broken sneakers
     with a well-pressed suit
I don’t ask myself why

First published in Tamba

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

The emptied bridge

This year I won’t stand under the railway bridge when the trains
are going across, she said, even though it thrills me so,
the adrenaline secret of the huge metal body
roaring above me. This year I won’t, won’t, she said, because
every time I do it, the thrill is a little smaller,
the thrumming struts and howling iron breath more familiar.

This year I will hang back, I will wait, I will let the train
rumble on without my small gasp and shiver below it.
It makes no difference to the train, she said, so this year I
will simply watch, then pass beneath the emptied bridge and go.

First published in Creatrix

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