Playing

‘Where have you been, girl’?
‘Over the road, Mum.’
‘What do you do at the Fosters’ all day?
‘Nothing, Mum, nothing…

me and Sean Foster
played doctors and nurses
under the covers
up in the top bunk
under his red-and-blue
racing-car sheet-set

our thin, bony-shouldered
gangly foal-bodies

touching and smelling
peering and feeling
rubbing and humping…

nothing, Mum, nothing –
we were just playing.’

From Pushing thirty, wearing seventeen, Ginninderra Press, 2001

Legends

Rowdy, Chooka, Simmo, Roo,
PJ, Wardy, Macca too –
they strode the playground, bronzed and tall:
heroes, lions, legends all.

These boys, these men-to-be, had made
a very special kind of grade –
they’d cracked the footy hopeful’s dream
and made the Western Region team,

a sacred brotherhood which brought
an immortality of sorts:
all those who had ascended thus
were fawned on by the rest of us.

Big Macca couldn’t spell his name
but he was worshipped just the same,
and from the Senior Study portals
he dangled whimpering lesser mortals –

secure, his place as Chosen One
who walks forever in the sun,
never to be any less
than loved, and feared, and greatly blessed.

***

But, back then, none among us knew
that after passing singly through
the great white gate of graduation
old idols, starved of adulation,

thrown out alone, sans audience,
would never again seem so immense;
and age steals even the speed and skill
that made them kings of Footy hill.

Their immortality of sorts
a dusty file of sports reports.
Their path to greatness paved with tar:
the road to the job at the abbatoir.

Oh, some went out in a blaze of glory,
legends right to the end of their story –
forestalling ignominious failure
in a howling scrum with a semi-trailer.

But most have suffered their god-like statures
to be shrunk to the sidelines of Sunday matches –
barracking fiercely for Dave and Bevan
in the mortal clash of the under-sevens.

From Pushing thirty, wearing seventeen, Ginninderra Press, 2001

Mother Love

Wave after wave, the ocean counts the cost
by piling sheets of water on the sand.
I dreamt before your birth that you were lost.
I think I have begun to understand.

By piling sheets of water on the sand
the sea offers its body, slice by slice.
I think I have begun to understand.
I love you knowing sorrow is the price.

The sea offers its body, slice by slice,
heaving itself onto an empty beach.
I love you knowing sorrow is the price.
I start a task whose end I’ll never reach.

Heaving itself onto an empty beach,
the sea still finds the energy to give.
I start a task whose end I’ll never reach.
I give you life, not knowing how you’ll live.

The sea still finds the energy to give.
I dreamt before your birth that you were lost.
I give you life, not knowing how you’ll live.
Wave after wave, the ocean counts the cost.

from Mapless in Underland, Ginninderra Press, 2004

Wheels

As kids we poured our smart-arse scorn
on the four-foot screeching Dalek hordes
because a single flight of stairs
could stop the whole invasion dead
in its little rubber-tyred tracks.

We’re older now, the jokes have stopped.
Instead, we’re clamouring for more tar
to pave our way to glory, for
at sixteen, humans grow a car
and never leave the road again.

Present us with a mountain now,
deprive us of our wheels, and watch
our jelly legs and blubber arms
struggle and fail. The Dalek curse:
we can’t go where we cannot roll.

from Mapless in Underland, Ginninderra Press 2004

Sappho

inspired by the abstract portrait ‘Sappho’ by visual artist Kirsten Farrell

Sex still draws us into your scattered fragments.
All your hot young lines with their smudged-out endings:
petal-tatters clinging to swaying bodies
pulsing flushed and pink with the tease’s power
holding all our heads under scented, cresting
oceans of aching.

from Mapless in Underland, Ginninderra Press, 2004

For the poetry geeks who might be interested, this poem is:

 

Tableau vivant

London. February.
A bitter Tuesday
stalled between stations on the District line.
I can see my breath in the carriage.

Out the window
on Wimbledon Common
the morning promenade is passing:
sets of two-legged silhouettes
bulking under arctic wear,
each set leashed to a four-legged friend.

Heads are hunched against the wind
but tails are waving free:
busy flags and pom-poms
adorning a mute march
against all Februaries, all Tuesdays.

from Mapless in Underland, Ginninderra Press, 2004

Waiting for the sun

I am a sundial
in a sunken garden.

On the days when you show your face
I bask, all those long warm hours.
You only see me when I glow,
borrowing your radiance –

but behind me, where you cannot see,
circles a cold shadow blade.

It gets longer the closer you are to leaving,
and in it
are all the iron-frost memories
of the days when you do not come.

from Mapless in Underland, Ginninderra Press, 2004.  Set to music by choral composer Sandra Milliken and performed in Brisbane in 2004.