Stirring

The year I was fifteen
when the Show came to town
I went all on my own money.
I won at the laughing clowns,
had a whole fairy floss
to myself
and went on the gravitron
without throwing up.

Walking home afterwards, I left my girlfriends
at the corner,
headed uphill alone to the rectory.
The grassy side of the street
muffled all footsteps: the first sound I heard
was a whump between my shoulder blades.
Hot, shocked tears
stung into my eyes.
I whipped round, wheezing.
Rolling at my feet:
a half-eaten apple.
Twenty steps behind:
the Year 10 boys in a mob.

I could still feel the apple
in my back, a spreading
target-shape of stunned skin.
          ‘Hey, priesty-girl.  Goin’ ta church?
          Run home and cry to Daddy’.
Lava rose in my chest, hotter
even than tears.
My mouth opened
every swear word
I had ever learned
spewed from me
piling up
with the apple crumbs on the ground
until I was knee-deep
in filthy
glowing
four-letter
coals.

The street went very quiet.
Fifteen bum-fluffed jaws
dropped into the silence.

From Mapless in Underland, Ginninderra Press, 2004

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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