Losing my footing in front of the chess players belly laughing beside the waist-high chess pieces, a triangle of brick departing from the stairs under the trees of the make-shift mall arena, there were seagulls, I remember, their cry rotates round the head, a brutal halo to a fragile constitution or those sensitive to even the mildest noise pollution. Not the men at the chess board. Their carved lines from 9am to 4pm. Do they bet money? Who can tell, their language is foreign, a man in gruff jeans, stains folded in, disputes the previous move, he’ll dispute your shoes if you get close enough, the chalk-white gulls dive for a cheeseburger crust, the addicted congregate outside the mall entrance. One Thursday the players are gone. The chess board is broken up, yellow vested men with jack hammers shatter the bricks. I wonder where the men went, one Monday out running I see the same stained jeans in a park by the sea playing lawn bowls with a group of men. A beer, a cigarette in the hand, disputing the last throw.
Silver spoons make giddy sounds
(after Kitchenette Building)
Money has a sick thumping sound, bass that makes the gums bleed, it’s witchcraft, it’s universally understood. Between us there is nothing. Then there’s the sculpture of capitalism – cash – say it – cash. A hushing sound. Rich jealousy chokes with a hideous purity. There is no self-control; tailored suits, Italian leather shoes, see a show, see seven, holiday in Europe, go to Moscow, snap pictures among the homeless, the heartbroken, ride the chained elephants in Bali, pat a tiger in India, photograph the natives, don’t recognise the absurdity of cigars for cigars sake. You don’t smoke but hate to seem uncultured – skinny bastard, each parent competing for love, the Xbox, the laptops, and the stupid red sports car. God! We’d die to have half the cash you ungrateful squandering ass, my god! Spare us the green eyes – my god, you disgust us. I’m thinking of buying a house in Sydney, nothing flash, just a renovator’s dream with high ceilings, a fireplace if I can. No brain for science or mathematics, lord knows we’ll die as tramps. Worlds away we’re just as ungrateful, but in this town we’re on the lower rung, it’s hard for us, it’s hard not to look at you with daddy’s silver spoon and hate your fucking guts.
Slapped flat by the realisation
that the Darwinian top-shelf isn’t your bag, the urge to
slink back rolls in, strong as waves, but with more liberty, one
resorts to fatalism in the face of too little shifts at the
restaurant and too many bills to pay, walking is free
and it clears the head but the high rises
at the sea edge tease and torment. The voyeuristic
prying on unrestrained wealth curls into obsession
study hard, you’ll get a better job if you make it
on that diet of 2 minute noodles and toast.
There is a small space between the barbed wire, and a bend in the gate where she hoists herself over. The power lines sew the soft landscape together with a slight buzz, kookaburras stitched in at intervals scoping the ground for a lizard. A single VB bottle floats in the weir. The sky is clear but for the occasional cloud and the ground has seen a little rain. She lives for walks like this. Following the fence along the paddock, she is unprepared for the corral bearded with discarded wire at the top of the hill. A low rumble makes its way through the trees. In the corral bones outline a cow. The horses are so thin they could be wind. The farmer has gone to Europe for the winter, his son owns a house in the next town. Last Christmas he left his wife for the bottle, and has never been the same. He shot his neighbour’s dog for trespassing. Neither have seen the bush-lined house for more than a month. Or seen the goat on the ground, chained to the fence, scraping the dirt with legs too weak to get up. The rumble grows louder. Beside the corral there is an open paddock, thick with weeds and patches of grass. The bush beyond is dense and open to the road. The gate is chained shut. She pulls and twists at the chains as the son’s truck skids to a stop. She pulls the gate open just enough. The horses pass at a trot. A shout comes out of the truck. She turns and catches her jeans on a coil of barbed wire. The son walks to the back of the truck. She frees herself and runs for the bush. The son takes his disfigured Rottweiler off its leash.
Small and slender as a pencil, the snake coiled itself inside the canoe. I guess I’m not using that today. I take off the olive slip I’m wearing as a dress and edge into the dark water. Thighs, hips waist, breasts, neck. I take a breath and let the water cover my ears. I can hear the clicking of yabbies on the creek floor. My dress sways in the breeze. I swim slowly out to the rock, so as not to disturb the wombat on the creek bank. The breeze gathers momentum. Floating on my back, ears under the water, I hear the faint but distinctive rev of a two stroke motorbike. I dart around the creek bend and into the reeds, hoping my slip blends with the scenery. I wait for the sound to fade before slinking back to the bank. The wombat has retreated to his burrow, the snake has moved on. There is deep tyre mark where the water meets the bank. I creep to the tree that holds my slip.
It is gone.
A series of thoughts obeyed blindly, he knew misfortune well.
Glass and knives in the parking lot, crowbar clashes, whatever’s
on hand. Fights climbing up from the gutter for a fix, rage fueled
and ready for knuckles, tornadoes of fists many against one, to our
knowledge he never killed but fought underground for cash
high on power, the absence of guilt, staggering. Across the
Cross, trawling for hits, governed by a certain code, he never punched
a man who wasn’t looking. Never with guns but he faced one
screaming “Kill me! I have nothing!” and never faltered once, wanting so much
to avoid becoming the coward father he never knew, face flowering angry blues,
one eye swollen shut, he met a mixed martial arts champ on the train and
almost lost, jumping platforms, running the stairs, a thought in the mind
rolled over twice, perhaps he’s not the Invincible Man.