poetry

  • ‘Cigarette Girl’ Fremantle Arts Review.
  • ‘By Gum’ Grass Roots.
  • ‘Cinema of the Fifties’ ABC Rural Radio.
  • ‘Earth Study’ FAW SA.
  • ‘All Borrowed’ FAW SA.
  • ‘Summer Sheep’ FAW TAS.
  • ‘People Like Scattered Spaghetti’ ABC A First Hearing.

 

A few selections…

CIGARETTE GIRL

Cigarette girl depowered by sex and drugs
Near the tobacco counter in the supermarket
Split ends with long ash hair
In a flaming red get up
The same colour as the open packet
Being everything she has to be
Displaying different lengths
As in the days of black and white television.

The smile, the melting makeup (including the grave eye shadow)
A subtle touch of sunburn and one or two melanomas gone astray
Perfect this burning package.

She offers crash course modelling skills
Tar content countenanced
Fags to everyone
Elegant claws glued to the stain of nicotine
Her job and gender.

The supermarket manager
Puffs to her putting hard words through his own cloud.
They talk about the budget and the price expected to light up.

While sucking on
The manager draws the girl
Wheezing in his aura.
He watches on cloud nine
She watches the last minutes to six from the corner of an unmade eye
To hell with the charade of pulling and roping the tailor made
The company car waits with its advertising to whisk her away cork tipped tight lipped
Her sensible senses in quiet outrage this life already yesterday.

Post budget shoppers obese and hooked on a tin trolley full of packets marked down
Jumbo their load of food and children
To today’s cigarette girl
Is she the same as yesterday’s?
The red and white has turned to brown
The open packet is brown
But the makeup is the give away.
An eye to the clock on the wall says it all.


CINEMA OF THE FIFTIES

It was picture theatre if you can
When we left for the flicks in our home town live.
The late fifties when you went once a week by car to a smell
That dreamt of curtains hiding
A screen of bubble gum.

Grandfather took the Austin.
His cataracts weren’t all that bad.
You told him where the edge of the gravel was
To avoid the potholes that were coming up.
Nobody told him to open his eyes.
He’d drive us to the matinee session, drive home
Then rewind his pictured path.
‘I wouldn’t be able to see anyway,’ he used to say indicating the film covering his eyes.

You had to be there early.
To watch the magic of green curtain revelation.
And through this atmosphere draped with bubble gum like a friend
Every Saturday you could smell the sticky stuff in the middle of winter,
The matinee drive.
We went upstairs with the good people at one and nine.
It was one and six downstairs where the usherette hit you with a torch
If you slashed the seats or tried to climb onto the stage.
Lights went out undimmed and the national anthem with the drum roll in the top right hand corner began
Pulling the green lashes to the corners.
We knew grandfather would be home
It was our way of viewing his miracle
His way of keeping the curtains apart.
To see
Just like a motion picture.

The Queen faded into the first feature. More lights went off,
The big boys downstairs blew up condoms
And called out
‘Anybody got a pin?’
‘Got a pin?’
(You’d have to be a real prick to do something like that today).
There was a bang. A light shone on downcast faces. The curtains lashed in and out waiting for Her Majesty to re-appear.
It was the usherette.
The first feature had already commenced
Hollywood was years away in black and white.

You didn’t like the film.
It was a cartoon.
Were you too big for animation?
Were you too small for the other boys?
Too good to sit downstairs.
Upstairs you heard and smelt the things that noise prevented.
Still bubblegum held the frames together.

When a Western started you hated your best friend
For laughing at the American humour.
Snobbery grimaced sullen and sticky.
The curtains bounced into view in a draught
This was not for real.

At interval lights came on as they had gone off
Like grandfather the curtains back tracked to hide unfinished titles.
A screen filled with red.
The projectionist hadn’t got back to the film in time
You imagined a reel fire that burnt both screen and projector simultaneously.
Nothing would be hurt and you’d see a smell.

Under this intermittent eye of the family who owned the theatre you were protected.
The torches were replaced with violet crumbles, jaffas and coke
While you looked at the magician in awe, – the projectionist – and hoped that he would get his act together like they seemed to manage in the city theatres.
Was there hope that the circles in the top right hand corner could be counted?
Could you ask to make the intermission slides as the Indian ink smudged the message about next Saturday
From the dress circle?

How you wanted to have words with the projectionist.
‘My grandfather has cataracts in both eyes and he can see better than you,’ was all you could think of saying.
Maybe he had got intermission Indian ink into his lens accidentally and all he could do was to pull one big switch that cut the lights, started the curtains rolled the film
And rubbed an iris.

At last there was the picture again.

The big boys blew up more condoms. Girls fought off the hands between their legs, the arms around their shoulders and the stereophonic wolf whistles.
The new screen was given its first stretch with a preview of How the West was Won in cinemascope.

For eyes at one and nine there was more but some were getting extra for one and six.
Grandfather returned with the end titles.
He drove up in our heads as we blinked in the instant light of fresh gum in the last frame.
‘Good film,’ he enquired with a past mind’s eye.
‘Yes ,’ I said.
And we were driven off still picturing.


SHEPHERDS HILL RESERVE

And sheep may safely gaze upon sheep
From this feral acropolis
To ghettos of positive life that nibble not unlike resistant vermin
In pelletised cliques
Too nice for taboo.
Yet too small for anonymity.

Sustained fronts offer little relief.
While sepia clouds affect an immune cover
Carcinogen coast to cloven contour
A graben sees an artist slice an ear to deafen all upon the horizon
As the populus engulfed within an echo
Counters the regular bleat of navigation aids.

My silent rift concludes.
Like the ebb from scars soothed by a prescribed memory lap
Of undetectable lanolin
I hesitate in a wave of shadows of this arboreal abattoir at high tide.
To stay I must transfuse
The current of Shepherds Hill Reserve.