One block long (and almost as wide)
the peeling houses and mangy lawns
faced each other all down the road:
a workers’ parade of ‘semi-detacheds’.
At one end, like a mislaid chunk
of ancient wedding cake, still sat
the town’s first Council Chambers (sunk
by then to the status of Sunday School).
From there to the cheapie patho-lab
behind steel bars at the other end
was property of the Spring Street Mob:
our one-road realm all afternoon.
There were the Brewers, who, if you ‘crawled’
would let you go on their slip’n’slide
all the way down their muddy backyard
in the merciless summer hoildays;
and ‘no-bath’ Mick, with snot-nosed sisters
sporting rag-doll hair; and Kim
who got the trampoline for Christmas
and split her head on Boxing Day;
and the Snells, who everybody knew
were far too closely interbred
(each year a wobbly girl or two
would pop out a child to her brother or dad).
We used to have raucous games of cricket
– the ‘our end’ kids against the rest –
with no ‘LB’, and a steel bin wicket.
Any front yard was six and out.
I remember the time the boys got caught
exploding the Hennessys’ letterbox.
The flames had leapt to fourteen feet
(or so the ropable mother claimed).
My brother said ‘Bullshit!’ (Lord preserve us –
he said it that way to the cops as well).
He still got off with community service
(always could dodge what was coming to him).
But we don’t own it any more –
the home have lost the families
they held; the yards fenced in; new doors;
and one or two ‘done up’. Who knows
the paths of all those countless Snells?
There’s none here now. The vacant block
has sprouted flats. A bright sign sells
them: ‘Home for Confused Elderly’.
From Pushing thirty, wearing seventeen, Ginninderra Press, 2001.