Secret

SEcret

I sometimes wonder who he was, that man who called at our place a few years after dad had died and mum had moved into a nursing home.

Did mum have a secret life?

We all need someone or something to keep us afloat.

Shell

Shell

Listen to the sea , my granddad said

as we stood on the soft white sand .

And he clamped the shell to my ear

like a mobile phone . Listen , he said ,

listen . And we grew silent . It was

at first like listening to a garbled

conversation or the radio between

stations but then it settled — and I could

hear inside this shell which wound back

inside itself like a spiral staircase

the whoosh and wash of a distant sea —

for this one was silent —- and for a moment

it was as if I were an astronomer

listening in through his radio telescope

to the hum of the universe 

The Bum on the Sidewalk

She wasn’t really a bum.

She had a name.

Lauren.

She had a face too

but she asked me not to

photograph it.

But what really attracted her to me

was she was reading a book.

You don’t really associate street people

with reading.

And it was a big book.

Like a Russian novel.

Dostoevsky or Tolstoy maybe.

But it was a home grown novelist.

Bryce Courtenay

a true story about a girl called Jessica.

She was on page 237 and she was only halfway

into it.

We talked briefly.

I put some coins in her cap and left her to it

on the cold sidewalk.

I would like to have known her story

but you can’t be intrusive.

Under the Gate

What is the cat looking for under the gate?

Perhaps the old tom two doors down trudging across the road like a sloppy sentence.

Perhaps the purr that left her mysteriously six months ago.

Or maybe she’s dreaming of the Krazy Kat cartoons she loved read to her as a kitten.

Or what the rest of her siblings are up to at the Pet Barn and whether they landed on her feet like her when she was adopted.

Or maybe she’s just curious. She’s a cat after all.

Who Has Written These Poems?

Who has written these poems ?

I say

as I browse through the pages

of this commonplace book.

I have neglected to name their authors.

There’s one about

Tennessee Fainting Goats

which calls to mind

my ‘Cows in a Paddock’ ;

another about women in a junkshop staring through a window

at the rain

‘where a taxi as yellow as a forsythia

is turning a corner’,

and a snippet about snow over Xmas and New Year

hanging around long after

‘like the drunk at the bar

who needs to go home’

Hmmmm.

Could any of these be mine?

But the one about the fortune cookie is Ed’s.

It’s got his mark all over it.

But the others? I just don’t know.

Could I be that good?

I don’t think so.

Where’s Raymond?

Where is Raymond?

Everyone loves Raymond.

But no one is saying.

They’re tight-lipped.

Christine is gone too.

But no one is asking after her.

It’s Raymond we love,

Raymond the Joker,

the Energiser Bunny that kept

the whole thing humming,

the convivialist who could talk

to children, animals.

Why, he could talk to a stone

& it’d open up.

Did he blot his copybook?

Perhaps he ran off with Christine,

some wag suggests.

The world just seems smaller

without Raymond.

Meg

Something is bothering

this silkie





She wanders

round and round

the yard

in

a solipsistic fluff

driving us round the bend.

She worries the others.





A few days later

when we let her out she resumes

her circling

then huddles beneath

the bird bath

and will not move.

We shift her.

She crawls under a bush

hard to reach.

The cat who often bothers the chooks

leaves her alone.





That night it rains and rains.

In the morning

she is bedraggled

and dead.

I lift her into the earth.

There isn’t much of her.

The chooks settle after that.

So do we.

Peepholes

There used to be a man, a hobo, who drifted in to our town.

He was selling peepholes from a brown burlap bag.

It was like a lucky dip.

You gave him a few coins and you’d reach in

& pull out a peephole.

You might get lucky, the man said.

You might pick out the one that looks into the universe the moment it was born

or the one that sees who took the Beaumont children

from Glenelg Beach on New Year Day, 1966.

Everyone wanted to know that, especially the parents.

But mostly we got ones that looked at the tree behind it or a flock of black clouds roaming like sheep

in the pasture of the sky.

One day he fell asleep against an old gum in the park

and we looked through his peepholes.

They were all the same,

None peered into a secret place.

They all looked at what was the other side of the peephole.

The man began to wake up.

We shoved the peepholes in his bag and ran off.

We didn’t need a peephole to see through him..

Looking at the Long, Narrow Columns

Looking at the long, narrow columns of ‘Le Coeur Immense’

and trying to read the text with the French I have long forgot

is like that time I rode the train having just purchased my copy  

of Sgt. Peppers that no radio station had yet been allowed

to play and trying to hear the ornate aural castles the Beatles

had constructed from reading the lyrics on the album’s

psychedelic sleeve

Rumpole

This is Rumpole.

Rumpole is a plaster of Paris statue of a real dog that wandered away nine years ago and never came back.

We tell tales of where he might have gone, what mischief he got up to and the puppies he might have sired.

We still think one day he will find his way back home which is why we leave the side gate open.

Meanwhile the statue is comforting. We know he’s not really there

But every Halloween he cocks his leg and pisses on the pavers to remind us he still is