The Cutting Caption

M is in her cups.

Any moment now, the kookaburra cackle

the cutting off, like a hoon driver on the highway.

But for the time being I’m holding the table, telling the tale of the silver hammer beneath the front passenger seat of my car, what happens when my girlfriend spots it.

The little group leans forward, intent.

But it reminds M of something and she’s hyper now, jumps in, raucous.

This time I’m ready for her.

I took a photo today I’d like to show you. It’s for you, I say.

You did? Really?

Yes, I say, bringing it up on the screen, passing it across to her.

It’s what you do when you cut people off, how you make them feel. It’s kind of a metaphor.

She has a close look. Ouch,, she says. Lopped?

Yes, lopped.

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..

No Special Hurry

The crow

in the crossbars of

the power pole

is saying, Hey John.

You don’t have to worry, man.

You are not one of those who bring so much courage

to the world that it has to kill you

So don’t ruffle your feathers.

Pardon? I say.

I can read you like a book, he says, speaking of which

‘But it will break you.

It breaks everyone.

But you are one of those strong in the broken places’,

as Hemingway would say.

You read Hemingway?

Of course, who do you think I’m quoting?

You are a most learned crow, I say.

But it will kill you, he says,

‘It kills everyone

the very brave and very gentle

but if you are neither of these it will still kill you

but there will be no special hurry’.

That is sort of comforting, I say. Thank you.

‘Farewell to Arms’, he adds. Due attribution.

You should read it sometime.

I think I have, but not with the diligence you accorded it.

And with a flick of his suave black wings, he flies away.

The Three Most Important Things

The man who looks like an aging, portly Dick Van Dyke

wheels his walker towards me

in the Aged Care Centre’s library.

Are you a new resident? he asks.

No, I laugh, just having a quiet read while my partner visits

a resident.

Who are you?

I’m the Welcome Ambassador, he says,

brandishing his badge.

I welcome new residents.

I cheer them up. Show films in the hall.

‘Life of Brian’, ‘Carry on ‘ films, that sort of thing.

Get them to concentrate on the important things of life

when they’re down.

How do you do that? I ask.

I tell them a story about the time I almost died.

That sounds cheery, I say.

Would you like to hear it?

If I said no, would that stop you? I say.

He chuckles and gets on with it.





 Well, I had a heart attack ten years ago.

They thumped my heart with a ,,, what do you call it?

A defibrillator?

Yes, that’s it. I was between life and death. It could have gone either way. Do you know what they asked me?

No.

They asked me what the three most important things in my life were

and that I should think about them.”

What did you say? I ask.

Doritos, Tim Tams and cappuccinos.

[Had I heard right?]

What about your wife? I ask.

Yes, her too, of course.

But they were the first three things I thought of.

And are they still?

Yes. They keep me going.

What about your wife?

Yes. Her too.

So, he says, bending forward, eyes querying me.

So what are the three most important things

in your life?

Not Tim Tams, I say. Not Doritos. I like dark chocolate. Red wine.

My kids, I add. Them too.

That’s what you concentrate on whenever you feel like … you know.

Yes, I do,

I thank the Welcome Ambassador as he shuffles off back to his office.

He could do with losing some weight.

What I Saw on the Way

Beth put up a post yesterday about the joys of walking, not just the health benefits but what you come across on the way.

Here are some of the things I came across:

water tumbling over stones

a brindled dog all skin and bones

frogs jamming in baritone

the bumblebees’ gingery drone

horses cantering on their own

one jet black, the others roan,

sad girl sitting all alone

hunched over her mobile phone

The Sitting Duck

Every time I sit out the back on my three chairs a bloody poem

comes into my head. The Muse is not silly. She sees me sitting there, happily

drifting off like a Labrador in the winter sun





and says, ‘Aha: there’s a sitting duck’. I don’t know if sitting on fewer

chairs or more would make a difference. I suppose I could experiment.

I could bluff my way into intensity by having a book of heft





say ‘Sabbath’s Theatre’ open in front of me and my glasses resting

professorially on the bridge of my nose, my chin resting on my hand

in faux concentration. Maybe that would work





but She’s not buying it; She nudges up to me, the swish of Her gown

over the carpet of bluebells, the murmur of bees, Gus, the Jack Russel

yelping at ghosts next door, and says, I’ve got one for you





and She whispers a line in my ear, and she sure has, and I leap out

of my three chairs and dash into my study, onto my laptop where I’m

pounding down this poem, the one you’re reading,  right now

The Silver Hammer

What’s that? Under the driver’s seat?

A silver hammer.

Maxwell’s?

Lol, No, mine.

What for? In case of a car jacking?

No. In case I’m caught. In a flood.

Pardon?

You remember the floods in NSW a few weeks back when a car tried to drive through a flooded road and the car sank, the driver died? You know what happened?

Not really.

The electronics failed. The driver couldn’t open a door or window to escape. Suffocated. Now if he had a hammer.

Gives a new meaning to the old song, doesn’t it?

What song?

‘If I Had a Hammer’.

Are You Lost?

Are you lost? he asks.

I don’t know, I say. I think so.

What’s that bracelet around your ankle?

Oh that, it’s a monitoring device in case I get lost.

So are you?

I guess so. I was wandering like Wordsworth. Only he saw daffodils.

So what do you see?

I was just looking at the windy lake, how the waves arch like dolphins through the water and i thought of that song

What song?

The one that goes: ‘I wish I could swim like dolphins can swim’

You see that?

Yes, don’t you? Excuse me, that’s my phone ringing. I really have to take this. Alright, alright, don’t get your knickers in a twist. I’m coming right now. I have to go, I say.

So you’re okay then?

Yes, Someone’s waiting for me, waiting out the front.

That’s good. Anyone you know?

Yes, someone I know very well. But it’s okay.. He found me. We lose each other from time to time.

Pardon?

Soon as I get home, I’ll lock myself in. for the night. That’s when my mother used to wander too. It’s for my own good.

The Third Sentence

Many creative writing classes and manuals will stress the importance of the first sentence, that it must grab the reader’s attention. Even Hemingway espoused this fallacy. But the first sentence is never enough.

Yes, it must grab the reader’s attention, If it doesn’t the reader will go elsewhere. There are plenty of options — but if the second sentence is flaccid, all will be lost. The second sentence fulfills the promise of the first.

But it is the third sentence that seals the deal. The third sentence assures the reader that the writer is authentic, that they are worth listening to, that they have something to say and have the command of language to say it with flair and authority. They can be trusted.

After that the writer will be ‘in full swing’. The reader will be committed;  will go along for the ride.  

The Thing in the Cage

It always come down to this: Did he see it or did he not?

Warren goes to the Children’s Hospital to see his daughter who’s been run over by a car only he gets lost in the maze of corridors. He panics, opens doors at random, many without signs. That’s when he sees it, the thing in the cage. It’s humanoid, hairy,stands upright and rattles the iron bars. It looks him in the eye. A stricken, get-me-out-of-here look. Warren is horrified. What is it doing in this big white room? In a Children’s Hospital? Warren backs off, fumbles for the door handle, and races out, down the corridor, any corridor that leads to the light. What had he seen? Was it an experiment?  Was it top secret? Had he seen something forbidden? He retches for air.

When he steadies himself, he goes back to Reception, makes sure of directions this time and finds his daughter. He does not say anything about what he has seen. He knows he has seen something he should not have seen. Or maybe he had seen nothing at all. Frenzied phantasmagoria.  He keeps quiet. He talks to his daughter about home, about how she is, about when she is coming home. They talk and talk and talk and he holds her closely. .