The Latitude of Gratitude

All lined up in my sights
my little duckies in a row
a dozen windows open all at once
and then at last I’m home
fading red wine melancholy
paired with your sacred text
my evening hums with electricity
as I bathe in your eccentricities
discovering and recovering
aspects long lost, now resurfacing
or carefully concealed, re-emerging
fragments I once discarded
re-birthed in wanton laughter
your songs are a lullaby to my soul.

Greedy as a starving dog
I consume your musical words
graceless in my unrestrained gluttony
your glorious expression surpassing me
your clever deceptions delighting me
you lead me along the garden path
you get me higher than heaven itself
and for all the hours I should have slept
I would make your poetry my gentle bed
comforting myself within your essence
your thoughts become my convalescence
and with your loving holy hands
and your blessed, messy, crazy heads
you wrote me out of hell.

“And now for something completely different…”

I live in a small flat overlooking a main road, facing the expanse of the city’s South-West, staring right down the barrel of the setting sun. Local daylight saving time kicked in a few weeks ago, and rather than dealing with an extra hour of searing heat and blinding light pouring into my glorified shoe-box, I have taken to walking in the evening.
“To a store that sells curtains?” I hear you ask. No, not to the curtain store. Just wandering around my suburb, blending in with the dog-walkers and lycra-joggers, you know. Walking.
This place used to be a slum, with houses crowded close together and built tall and thin with adjoining walls, whole blocks of terrace homes with fences and tiny balconies decorated with wrought-iron. Some are modern castings, replicas created for more recent owners who pay millions of dollars to live in these done-up 19th century flophouses, but others are rusted and worn with a hundred years of weather and traffic exhaust.
Further down the street I walk past a mansion from the same era, sold in the 70’s, and converted with fibro and asbestos into a pile of tiny flats, now crumbling gradually and gracefully and only rarely collapsing on the students, artists and minimum wage scrapers that reside within.
My eyes are drawn again to the wrought-iron work on both the restored terraces and that old mansion. All I can think about is that iron, once heated to a glowing white, then bashed, hammered and twisted into shape by sheer will and muscle. I picture this blacksmith, some huge burly bloke with biceps like gnarled wood and a grip that would break the bones of my hand, not that such a fellow would likely offer to shake the hand of a modern dandy like myself, but you get the point.
This huge guy, this big dude, this strong, fucking manly bastard spent his days in a workshop that was hotter than Hell itself, his unshaven face black with forge-soot and scorch marks as he uses fire and raw strength to delicately manipulate the burning metal into flowers, vines, broad and narrow leaf shapes, ubiquitous fleur de lys, these patterns of intricate beauty that adorn hundreds of homes, once thousands perhaps.
And I doubt one person was doing all the terraces in the city. I suppose there would once have been a street that rang with the striking of a hundred hammers as they worked, a legion of skilled craftsmen, people who could never conceive of the future into which some of their work would survive. Schools of technique that competed with each other maybe, and maybe some conventions that were universally taught. How many horse-shoes and hobnails did an apprentice have to make before they let them have a crack at this stuff? I wonder if I could study these lattices for long enough to understand what it all means…
A young man ambles past me, about my height but thicker in the arm and shoulder, tattooed hands and low-slung jean-shorts. I jump when he speaks with a smoke damaged voice.
“How high are you bro? You’ve been staring at that fence for, like, ages.”
“I’m on my way to the curtain store!” I say, maybe a bit too quickly. He nods, and walks away without saying anything else.
Should I go to the curtain store?” I consider it for a moment, but that guy is right. I am definitely too high for the curtain store. And it’s getting dark anyway, so there would be no more sunlight in my flat “So who needs fucking curtains?” I turn around and begin to walk home.

Chicken Pickin’

Fumbling picking with prickly fingers
chords that jangle when they should chime
callous growth and my forlorn hopes
I’ll make these cliches dance in time
a worn-out phrase born from naivete
climbing chaos like a jungle-gym
can’t persuade myself to save myself
wandering hands play a lonely hymn
reveal yourself to me
with your melodic screed
crows strung along a telephone wire
reaching heights I couldn’t aspire
summoning crumbs
twiddling thumbs
someone’s gotta feed these chickens.

Empathy & Emptiness

“You will be required to do wrong no matter where you go. It is the basic condition of life, to be required to violate your own identity. At some time, every creature which lives must do so. It is the ultimate shadow, the defeat of creation; this is the curse at work, the curse that feeds on all life. Everywhere in the universe.”

-Philip K. Dick

The Wicked Witch of the Inner West

In Western Sydney the girls are pretty
and the boys are prettier still
working past dark in Hurlstone Park
“Gotta pay those fucking bills.”

Hit the frog and toad with long-neck to go
all slings and round-a-bouts
sun’s out guns out for the ‘roid rage knaves
“I reckon it’s about your shout”

Blacktown, Shalvey, Bankstown and Canterbury
tribal divides run deep
lock your windows or they’ll steal your dreams
and pull burnouts on heat-sink streets.

Others long gone like a forgotten song
snake skeletons beside a creek
now the low overhead wires crackle with ire
and all bastards become police.

Mcmansions rise over the old sand mines
tasteless solid investments
while red brick boxes built on buried toxins
pull curtains on congealing terrors.

Newtown’s terraces with the screaming jets
sipping on neck-beard tea
a backyard fracas breaks an afternoon balm
“Just pay your fucking tick!”

In the Picton tunnels the underground runners
tag walls with obscure glyphs
when the last train has gone have one more bong
“You smoke green or do you spin?”

Palms and cactus sprouting phallic masses
wine box dining or uber eats
the kebab shop’s hot with a variety box
no greens but plenty of meat.

Dulwich Hill how I remember you still
packed with hungry artists
but do me a favour and what’s your flavour
why water a concrete garden?

The Silk Road flows through Marrickville’s rows
scene kids never beheld the sea
strung out and strung up but heaven will come
with adrenaline and methylated spirits.

I climbed Mount Druitt! (someone’s gotta do it)
I swam in Liverpool’s depths
I digested myself and I divested myself
my steps bounced like bad cheques.

My lads and lasses in those discrete madrasahs
from Burwood to the Iron Cove Bridge
I’ll pretend that I know all your hidden codes
your mangled secretive language.

Tin shed alleys behind crumbling garrets
music thumping all night
but for the Wicked Witch of the Inner West
the mosquitoes refuse to bite.

I know it’s a shit-hole but save your vitriol
for cleaning the mouldy tiles
just forget your castle and white picket fence
and embrace our bogan vibe.

 

Author’s note – I know this one won’t make a lot of sense to some of my international friends, so if you want translations or explanations of any of the Aussie bullshit let me know in the comments.