By Malcolm Brodie
POEMS FOR FLORENCE
(To Celebrate Her Richness Always)
1 Billy left this morning
'Billy left this morning.'
of an entry in my Mother's diary
26 December 1949.
He is dead now, my Father.
Scottish-born, Second War, volunteer Digger. Died in the 1970s. Cancer.
("Look at me!" he'd said. "I'm down to skin and bone.") I sat staring across the breadth of the blue war-issue blanket,
rolled my eyes with his, shook my head,
before bending over to extract
a further two Matron-sanctioned cans of beer, from the locker beside his bed.
My Mother is hardly able alive now.
In hospital an infirm person, a protected person under law, she is not insane,
an illness, call it Alzheimer's Disease... a research-doctor's name.
"Billy left this morning!" she called out in the ward,
as I left her bedside abruptly, anxious to return home.
Malcolm Brodie has won third prize in the inaugural Bass Coast Prize for Non-Fiction for his poetry collection Alzheimer Sufferer/Carer Suite.
A collection of 56 poems, it covers the period from when his mother was first diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease until her death 14 years later. In the early years, Malcolm was her primary carer; in later years a daily visitor to a succession of nursing homes in which his mother resided.
He describes the collection as a non-sequential memoir since it moves backwards and forwards in time with his mother’s thoughts and his own memories of her.
The poems are colloquial, amusing, honest, lyrical, adding up to a work of great power and tenderness.
my name, Malcolm, my christened name
that Florence chose - (a daughter's birth?
remains the only name
in her mind
"He will come, my Malcolm,
although he is busy
and has lots to do: yes,
he will come."
And I do visit, as regularly
as I can.
that ward staff, sisters, nurses,
feed her on like food and drink;
like a shot of adrenalin
to by-pass faulty terminals'
cell circuits' electrical failures
to aid like rum
the company runner across the Somme battlefield
of her muddle
her intellect on all fours,
clinging to slippery duckboards
wrenching up under fire...
where other people scream or plead
for the intercession of a god,
beg for deliverance and succour...
"Malcolm! Yes, my Malcolm will come,
lthough he has many things to do."
And I trot along, in willing response,
anxious for the burden
of my latest miracle.
3 She is incontinent
is incontinent, the dear old thing
and she'll keep
rambling on fully, with assurance
in my presence
catchment area draining to the toes,
ankles and shoes under storm,
a fine mist this morning upon the knees.
it all would have seemed in the boardrooms
for those formulators of Zyklon B,
the driven riveters of human-proof furnaces,
concoctors and carriers of portfolios
if their blessed idols,
so buoyantly strutting and rambling on
before the multitude of us all,
had drenched themselves in similar rain
an epoch merrily disregarded by history,
(with tears in its eyes), Volk participants
pissing themselves with laughter.
But I walk the old sweetheart as fast as I can, hugging
the property line of buildings, hurrying
by shop entrances;
me on the outside, lower bodies
hips and legs matching stride for stride,
a Laurel & Hardy routine: one body, two heads,
two synchronized legs...
so we merge into one –
one rambling one laughter.
4 The time Florence shot through
Florence shot through
home hearth or hospital
elapsed, overlayed twenty-four hours.
Quite suddenly the call in
from a Constable Fitzgibbon –
"She's been found, Mr. Brodie!
She's safe and unharmed!"
(Safe & Unharmed!) Located
upon the steps of a factory
"From the mess of her jumper,
she spent the night
beneath a bridge, Mr. Brodie.'' (Beneath a bridge?)
It wasn't her jumper. She'd rifled it
from a sportsman's kit,
somewhere on the playing fields of Parkville.
The logo on the jumper
was of a jogger rampant. Florence's later
comment was, 'I wondered where I had left it.'
Must have been a real find for Florence,
a godsend, once the chill had settled in,
began to cool sweat's cooling perspiration.
"She is very dehydrated, Malcolm.
She must have continual fluids."
(Continual fluids! What bliss!) Only,
I could choose mine -
sip sip of the bitter-edged amber,
drip drip in her hospital bed.
We both slept; in sleep I overstayed,
5 If I could get out of visiting
If I could
get out of visiting tonight,
into my being like dope, lies about my front
like undispersed gas, the winds are moon-high
I trek further up the hill...
I keep going, kept along pushing
to the high ground of the hill
guilt's brimming equinoctial tide
lifts the Yarra from its bed
and low sides; overflow
takes care of the bridge...
but I'm safely across
to the higher mound of the hill
the hospital's lighted raft,
my spirit's dross
6 Willing the night air
Willing the night air for her
to hear my prayer
from parkland outside
a hospital's low wall, night air cold
chilly as my shame
she has spent tonight alone – unvisited.
Foyer door closed, locked. I know
of the bell's existence on the wall, tucked in
behind red plastic milk crates,
hidden away warm like a mother's nipple in a bra,
a touch will summon staff, I know
the night sister will respond
but I daren't now,
In this parkland where I'm now
slowly soaked by possums' breath,
other things at a loss
for what I'm about,
I scurry from trunk to trunk
for a hole in a tree or paired limbs of a fork
to curl up in, ride away
so her mind is reeled up
from that hospital bed,
in sleep a tree's top
there in sleep her devout.
7 My mother's mind
My mother's mind is a jumble
It's a jumble in as much
as a jigsaw puzzle in its box
is a jumble
Should you search among
the multi-coloured pieces,
there's the discovery that all pieces
with straight edges to them
I dare you to assemble an inner scene
without the use of framework.
We've grown used to
the proscenium arch and lost Shakespearean secrets
of the 'Little O': noblemen on stage on stools
talk among themselves, primp and preen
as Burbage sweats his piece; groundlings underfoot,
loud with drink and raillery.
Florence is a galaxy
receding from earth, accelerating
to where only light-years have substance.
Somewhere. with its head in ice
and twitching with Huntington's,
there's a weirdo god fingering
white hot fragments of the 'Big Bang'.
8 Her mind is
Her mind is
a precious rum jungle
of overhead canopy
and dangling vines
her fear swings daily
with increasing alacrity,
with increasing clamour,
from tree to tree
the sky blotted out for ever,
in this rainy season
she lives in gloom and greenness
sunlight's shafting health
when I'm about.
9 Her jungle walks
Her jungle walks
there's nothing more
that her mind can see
watch her eyes peer about,
she delves beneath
rocks and stones
pats the grass, smooths the air,
slowly identifies the rain
and ever gently with her hand easing out,
wonders if shadows can feel
10 She is bound
She is bound
within the playground of a child
whose mother has gone apart,
left him for the day
left him alone
for him to cope,
now when mother's gone and he's alone
and all around where everything is named
nothing is known;
only rain and wind and sky and sun and day...
of all days must be first of many,
of like company to come, to endure through
this nostril-flaring, unbridled,
unbroken brumby stallion
11 Florence saw me coming
Florence saw me coming
from the end of the ward, pulled
bed covers up over her head
in mock alarm
(a surprising yet welcome
piece of behaviour.)
"So!" I said.
"Who was brought back by a policeman then?"
"He was a bit of all right
that boy in blue. Could have spun him
a real line given half the chance."
"Riding in the back
of a courtesy car, surrounded by
"Yes, they were lovely with me.
Gave me a cup of tea."
"Found lurking outside a
tram depot. On the lookout
"You never know your luck, kid."
“'And in a nightdress!"
"Yes, of course, a nightdress, silly!
Though I'm a bit puzzled about
how I came to be wearing this.
Isn't this Auntie Nane's? You know,
when we visit to play cards.
Aileen's on the card of the concert.
I came to hear her sing.
'The Blue Bird Revue', 1916, at 'The Tiv'.
When I listened I could hear her sing.
Policemen cleared the footpath
so that I could get in.
Hello, love; it's so lovely to see you.
Thought you'd be along."
12 Had Florence lived longer
Florence lived longer, that is
would have outweighed
all other sentiments.
Poetaster that I am! in her final moments,
wasn't she chuckling in season
before us all
in delight of the falling snow
outside the window?
- car-lights' pin-prickling brilliance,
which shone as travelling stars
along the pane; electricity for
With a similar conductivity,
her metaphors found their genius
13 I have her eyes
her eyes, no one
need tell me.
Pop's distinctive Brodie face
identifiable as the clan
a highland head
breathing vapours by the sea
in gloomy Scotland.
Nearby to the Brodie land - Culloden,
and the whole imperishable,
best forgotten thing
to invade England?
or wreak vengeance on the Lowland's
I can ride this out.
All this hatred I need not concern myself about
because her eyes are mine,
I have her eyes
(which see into my own pores)
that slice and scatter the mores
of Scottish mists, ground-heavy
breaking the backs of ironclad turtle
as if wielding the double-edged
Thankfully, O most truly,
I have her eyes.
14 Why bother with men?
"Why bother with men?
those disgruntled sad sacks,
they only stare at a smile
there's no meaning there
I suppose women were to blame
for a long shot in the past,
when we smile out of friendship
their response: to wink and laugh
and I couldn't be bothered with them,
their rampage and their petting; then
once rebuffed they tum sulky,
immediately become petty.
Oh! I don't know why I bother with men.
I respond to their kisses
the feel of them - Billy's arms."
15. Once Upon A Time At San Remo, Before The Revolution
Zhivago had the advantage,
A snowstorm does offer an excuse
To remain inside, read, complete necessary jottings.
But the sky won't be in it!
All contours/colours of kids mucking there,
kindergarten types, the play centre pre-five era,
Who grin, beautifully, insensibly,
At the passing frantics of a motorbike.
Nor can they not involve others.
The Woolamai Hills besotted with piggybacks
Soon shrug them off, these willy-dillies, catch them in their laps
When they bawl out and become inconsolable.
Until gathered in like chicks to the squawking Aegean lake,
Where Salamis like a man's upper lip above his saying,
Wobbles a misty outline, frontiers earth and space.
At full tide the cormorants have their playground
Off the rocky buttress above the mudflats submerged now.
There cheeky puffy kids string them with vapour,
Erratic needles, various model aeroplanes
In parks on Sundays bellywacking the turf. T
his urgency must pay off, bringing
More than just a momentary satisfaction.
The jetty's rail buoys them motionless,
Fulfilled personalities who bird the Nazarene,
Allowing the drip from them of one element
Before acquiring another.
Their flight is a physical ascension.
At low tide poise of gingerly stepping waders,
Painstakingly set about furniture arrangements
In shallow pools and withdrawn depths.
First graders wearing mum's high heels,
Stepping placed feet so's not to overbalance or trip.
The risen tide flooding gathers them all to cluster
Upon a few craggy rock up-crops,
A school bell which demands attendance.
There's turmoil in the queue for preference:
Last pupil in may close and lock the door.
He enters the classroom late.
16 “What's taken place here?”
"What's taken place here?
and looking along the corridor
into the sitting room I can see her
slumped over in a chair, balanced
by some equation of mass/weight distribution
"There's been a slight mishap,
Mr. Brodie. Your mother has reacted unfavourably
to a drug
normally taken with equanimity
by others. The effect will wear off
in a few days. There is nothing
to worry about."
Unbeknown to nursing staff,
a doctor experimented
with a drug increase.
'Serenace' I heard mentioned, I think.
Slumped sidelong/mouth drooling/jaw fixed/
face slackened/unresponsive to call/
pickled in ether/in suspension
in a tank waiting for identification
the Pyjama Girl
of her generation.
"Florence... Florence... !"
it took her return -
last vestige of self
murdered/taken away/thrown into a quarry/
weighted down/hurled into a river/
disposed of in acid/hacked about/
posted through the mail
"WHO IS SHE?"
Crucial vestige of self: the ability
to answer to one's name.
17 Thoughts were otherwhere
than with a poem
lying there in sleep
her eyes created
I endeavoured to fill,
collapsing in on myself
Red Giant in space
creating luna-chutes in galaxies,
blacks on maps of stars...
her eyes were buds
when she awoke
giving me back
her problem as ever
when she spoke
I reached my zenith
and held her close.
18 After illness, partial recovery
After illness, partial recovery
of spittle's oozing dribble
down her chin
jaw fixed, reaffirmed
of the mouth, upper lip smooth,
free of wrinkle
teeth in place
(first time in a month), battened down
upon swollen gums.
Ward 3' s pretty paste hue: cleared sky,
autumn morning, daffodils aglow, sunshine.
Blue Bay curtains billow blue and yellow;
quick windjammer action of the crew -
mainsail's gathered, furled, slung...
topgallant Florence, blue-eyed;
white foamy sheets, lemon sandy coverlet;
a smile is lowered from sunken davits,
her jolly-boat buoyant upon green water -
in the face; hollowed out troughs
of hollows; moon accustomed
finally, a profound blue stare
quite Pasternakian in effect
this profound blue stare
Boris waits, hands in pockets, in range
of a camera
a lens will adjust...
Steady! steady, you both ... FLASH!
a photograph, untouched up events
stamped on a rubber stamp stamped
onto a stare
a bureaucrat's in-tray a stare
shall not be ‘Filed Away'
rubber stamped Staunch-Heartedness
shall not pass away.
nether region's dawn
outbreak of day
our winter killings.
White crisp moons
onset of day
profound blue stare,
in the face.
19 her smile of recognition
smile of recognition
set me free
as if on return through
its kingdom a soul by show of palm
extended laughter and sunlight
onto a buffooning serf
she could not speak
for several days into
her eyes spoke like Jesus' hands,
more beautifully than speech,
far more articulate than her tongue's
and I felt humbled
and demeaned of my currency,
and I knew then
why and how Pavlova, on stage
in queendom in Australia, felt when
high up from a seat in the gods,
hose selfsame then pubescent eyes
thrust down mortally into her plumage
once arrowed, and with blood-stained down,
skill deploying line, deportment, and craft,
how the feathers effortlessly coaxed from death
blind, inarticulate, raison.
20 Florence will die
Florence will die peacefully
in her sleep...
She is found, in death, mouth
half-opened, eyes half-shut.
for a bloody great
when, after years
a simple clarity
21 Residue of her clothing
Residue of her clothing
jumbled up shoved inside
a Brotherhood of St. Laurence bin
heavy metal truly fitting loosely
in the timbre of reverberation ... echoes
casual, acquainted, caring, bored:
"Tie shoe laces of each pair together.
Pile belongings into a single mound.
Remember your place pick up soap and towel.
Move steadily forward and shower.
Memorize your face in the crowd."
22 German Nazis would have gassed Florence
German Nazis would have gassed Florence,
and all people like her.
A simple assurance
(for this was prior Auschwitz)
would allay fear
(not suspicion, Florence has lost that sly
A simple death's-head smile
framed by an open doorway
would lure them in
so tightly packed in
became companionable for some;
a sort of humanness prevailed,
till pressed together too harshly
and a few stragglers
with bleeding heads were tossed in backwards
when the place erupted,
friendly entrance door was slammed shut,
and a mo... (for this was prior
Auschwitz) ... a motor roared
and people pressed up against tin sides
banged and kicked at resounding walls,
n the most sensible act
many had done for themselves in ages.
"Florence, don't hit me, love.
I'm only putting your arm
into the correct sleeve."
23 There's this beautiful lace
There's this beautiful lace-frilled blouse
in the window of St. Vincent de Paul
stronger than it looked
from outside, ought to stand constant washing,
not so young lady pretty,
it is in Florence's size
and, I'll take it, and
may as well try on for myself
this pair of jeans,
still tough about the seat I see,
they'll do for riding on the bike
and here are babies' prams, crockery,
lamp shades, cutlery;
men's hats, suitcases, books by the hundreds,
all neatly stacked, available for purchase,
and I love
second-hand clothing stores,
for the sense of continuity
with other peoples' lives.
24 Director of Casualty Services
DIRECTOR OF CASUALTY SERVICES
DANDENONG & DISTRICT HOSPITAL
Mrs Florence Brodie, age 67,
was seen by me in Casualty on
12/7/83 at 2000hrs complaining of ...
Not sure why she was brought here.
Claims son phoned for ambulance.
Claims son is mad.
(Case sheet says had abdo pain)
Smells of alcohol. Acometer 0.07.
Investigation: presenile dementia.
Provisional Diagnosis: Intoxicated
Could you continue his/her management
Casualty Medical Officer.
Although housebound in the main,
it would be ludicrous to complain,
Florence and I failed to entertain
a night out.
25 "This is for you!"
"This is for you!"
and the caring professional,
the district nurse whose name
rhymes with scandal
backed quickly away,
deployed into her van,
retreated down the drive.
What was mine,
was an order from the Office
of the Public Trustee
gaining control of Florence's estate,
together with a 15% heist
of her old age pension, brokerage
care of the rhyming professional.
Not feeling threatened beforehand,
I'd neglected my option
of Power of Attorney
and, let's face it, the
convivial confessional must'uv sussed:
Mum was worth a mint! Oh, the flotsam dreams
of the sunken harbour schemes;
will-a-way the wiles
that netted Rothschilds' salted millions;
sell at cut price all consenting Krugerrands,
gone the anonymity
my depleted Swiss account.
is its own reward' purrs
the district hearse
whose care rhymes with curse
whose hourly care of Florence,
a group setting one day a week
numbered 4, 4 hours per week!
lived as other carers lived,
fully one hundred and sixty-four.
is my only vice, and my benediction
another's extinction - oops, I mean distinction'
rheums this relevant rejection.
26 Under the circumstances
"No, Mr. Brodie.
Under the circumstances we shall not
And the door was opened for us
to leave the manager's office.
Wow! What a relief.
The doctor's letter
I'd learned to carry on me on all occasions
had saved the day.
I felt sorry though
for the store detective:
he poor chap looked as if
he stood in need
of an arrest.
27 The night sister
The night sister's face
There were dark circles under her eyes
like soaks of pain.
"Och! Mr. Brodie - I came off duty,
to find my bunch of keys missing.
I had to go home in a taxi,
an' break in to my own hoose.
I thought it wise
to knock on each of my neighbours' doors
furst, an' explain to them
that nothing was wrong, I mean,
they may have become alarmed
and called the Police.
I didna know how far down the street
I ought to go, so I went to the very end -
I found I couldna sleep at all that day,
an' it was only much later,
in the afternoon in fact, that day staff rang
an' informed me -
they'd located my keys in your mother's pocket!
I canna imagine how she come to possess
them, Mr. Brodie.
I simply canna imagine!
All the same, I needed to have
he broken window replaced
that very day. Och! the noise, an' the cost!
and by necessity, to lock myself out of my own
hoose when leaving for wurk;
an' the expense of another taxi fare
Needless to say,
your mother's a dear soul, Mr. Brodie.
Florence informed us all that evening,
she had indeed taken my keys, out of her fear,
that I mysel' might well misplace them somewhere.
Och! Noo! Mr. Brodie, put aside yer purse
though thank yer all the same. Recompence
is not necessary, yer hear? It's all in the job."
28 I entered by the ward's front door
by the ward's front door
manipulating two handles:
one a round knob set higher up,
the other a bar lower down simultaneously.
The interior was quiet. An air
of breathless officialdom hung about,
making things seem
Florence prolonged this
atmosphere, sitting in the nurses' chair
behind the partition,
with a pencil
filling in missing estimations
on a patient's cardiographic
Her writing was neat and precisely
toed the line.
We all read through her report
more than the once, half in fear
that, in her new capacity,
Florrie may have stumbled upon a gap
in all of our exertions.
29 Florence slipped me a wink
slipped me a wink
when the confused Mrs. Kathy Teague
sat down opposite me
on the edge of mother's bed.
The conversation that followed
left me astounded, confused,
Which is all that mattered really -
their separate cultures produced
no antagonism, no personal beatitude;
was free of political moral ism, justification
data or the dreaded life support manual
and sense of trust gamboled apace;
they laughed together and spoke quietly,
each in a foreign tongue
1 was helpless to understand,
until Florence slipped me a wink,
saying, "You'd better go now, love."
So I did, feeling out of my depth ...
30 Once they had names
they had names like: friend, dear, love, sweetie
other patients many
she tends to stutter
finally ridding herself of the tag
"That! That over there, that... that thing.
Her! this one, her."
no names, no nouns of nearness –
bitch! - I wouldn't trust her."
like an epitaph.
31 Purring, shaking its tonsils loose
shaking its tonsils
an iron foundry of noise,
the little femme
sitting on my mother's lap
she strokes it continually
of things they have shared
under moon and sky
O whom is it speaking? Indeed
which of them
when there's laughter between them,
now poignant reminiscence.
O which of them listens?
Indeed who is the speaker?
in a garden setting
on a garden bench
two sweet ladies browse
through the memory of each
32 Agnes at Reception Recalls 'That Day!'
Agnes at Reception Recalls 'That Day!'
"May she have sweets, Malcolm?
She's run up quite a bill.
You don't mind my giving her some?
You won't mind having to pay, will you?'
Hmm. Mars Bars, Cherry Ripes, Kitkats,
appear the leading variety of items
obtainable where the bitumen leaves off
at the end of Florence's highway.
"She loves opening the door, Malcolm.
She closes it so gently, and
at times appears before me suddenly,
generously like a genie.
She has found her way past me
just that once, as you very well know.
Heavens to bits! What a day that was!
I'm so terribly thankful that she was found
and returned unharmed.
I try to head her away from the main door now.
She rarely gets past the switchboard.
Florence, you certainly keep me on my toes!
But, Malcolm, she does so enjoy opening
and closing that door.
And she does it all so gently."
33 "You can't say …
"You can't say
that they can't go out, can you"
observed a confidential Florence,
bidding a cheerful "Hello!" onto a group
of relatives departing the ward.
We had completed our walk,
and were returning at tea time
along the covered way. Florence
carried three twigs in her hand,
gathered earlier in the park.
"What have you there, love?" I queried,
nterrupting my voice exercises –
tongue twisters, vowel intonations,
sentences of senseless alliteration.
"Two cray sierras" Florence answered
nonchalantly, a dab of exasperation
apparent. Upon reflection, I really ought
to have known ... I suppose.
"Many million mini minors milling around
"Two cray sierras," and over there -
"It's not a puppy so it must be
Fred is our son, was in pre-Alzheimer life,
simply one of three totally beloved cats.
Fred is now the name of the hospital cat.
There are three hospital cats.
There's a Fred over by the kitchen door –
"Hi, Fred! Had tea yet?"
There's a Fred on a window sill -
"Catching the last rays, Fred?''
And a Fred at the foot of a tree -
"Freddie, you leave those birds alone,
you naughty boy!"
"It's not a puppy, so it must be
"Flippantly filthy flies fly freely
from frenzied fly flappers."
"Hold the wire door for me, Florence, please.
Hello, everybody! Bad news.
34 "Florrie! Grab a chair quick!"
"Florrie! Grab a chair quick!"
She did! Understanding -
shoving it up to the rear
of a sliding woman whose grip
upon sheets and bedspread
faltered, hung five...
and when she avalanched, straight
into Florence's lap so to speak,
pain or shock even of merest
proportion was averted.
Ward hero. Mentioned in
ward talk, morning tea-time
discourses; spruiked up among
fluffed out preening cushions that lay
deep breathing, bum baking in the
sunny day room; among pumped up
rubber rings, nose peg to valve, lying
idle as a Freddie in the empty
wheelchair corral; sluiced over by
stacked and dripping bedpans; accredited
with one further leaning floor mop epic.
Over Alzheimer airwaves,
"A bloody miracle of comprehension!"
summed up Nurse Kathy Jackson,
whose quick as a flash yell of direction,
Florrie, a Ward 3 permanent patient,
with Kathy Teague, and Mary Smith,
together share a room, keep company, sleep
separate from the rest
all respond, each one,
to a cuddle and a kiss, (remembering
Caddie once, Mrs. Cadwalleder, bras angled
across her chest like belts of ammunition
upon some Mexican desperado.
Josie Shanahan, (Florrie's first hospital friend),
how regally she stands in memory,
in a borrowed dress.
All of them, each one,
hese of our dear demented blessed,
respond lovingly to a cuddle and a kiss,
above all else to praise,
may each one be praised,
this retention of multiple richness.
Praise - that conferred distinction.
Arise, Dames Lovely,
in your Order of Muddle.
For her action Florence was praised
in smiles, in cuddles, and was taken
with an unforeseen side effect
upon a ward's shimmering tundra,
upon a floor's polished wilderness ...
Kathy Jackson works her rounds -
Florrie follows on behind her behind,
wheelchair in position 'Sir!'
positioned for the shove
hers, a hot red-alerted readiness.
35 "God bless its little heart."
"God bless its little heart."
An alive god-living thing,
a tiny white furred kitten,
like a wad of rolled cotton wool
upon the stoma of a tracheostomy,
nestles up beneath my mother's chin.
The valet-owner-nurse gushes on, about
parentage, lineage, her dog's devotion -
how they share a blanket
and sleep together;
the surprise of its birth,
that black blaze on the upper chest,
what lung capacity when kept separate
from where all the human action is;
its size upon your palm,
the blue eyes, the red mouth -
sounding! sounding! sounding!
holding court with pomp,
And with due attentive praise -
exuberant nurse, a wards-maid, the cleaner,
the night-sister, myself
standing at the foot of Florence's bed,
the rest all roundabout; cat
now pressed up against Flossie's cheek.
"l can't get over
how lovely things are."
37 Specifically prescribed
in a room together with other rooms
set aside side by side,
for the specific purpose of death;
(recovery is not anticipated)
way down back along the outermost wall
where medical feet needs must take
those few extra additional steps to be
in attendance. of assistance
has passed, Florence is dying, and spoken
in a front of house cubicle.
“Do you want us to attempt resuscitation should she... ?"
“Well. er …”
“After all she is an old woman. and there's her mental disability."
“Well. I, er …”
·"Then we’ll make transfer to a room
down back, keep up the intravenous
antibiotics. and otherwise ensure that she
is as comfortable as possible."
"Yes. Thank you."
Dying: portably transferred, cubicle trolleys'
makeshift beds; bodies' flat out postures particular
to malady, breathing quite distinguishable room to room.
Dulled to near extinction a floor level night light.
Dingy lit corridor, window's wired up grid impenetrable
flaky black; pull and push seepage of lungs;
night inside, all night ahead ...
in hers, survived; in what appeared to be
a rapid-river-rising dispute with sandbags
on the margin of earth and water
my filial concern for loss
disputed upon the levee height, converted
into a blood-hot cauterizing grist
rusted window wire
shallow penetrations of morning light
and I stepped out into the street
of that solitary unknown person
propped up with pillows
and now by medical agreement
for theatre this morning
as if I had emerged
wet and dripping, fresh brushstrokes' depiction,
from the background of a painter's picture,
full frontal nude in foremost detail
balls heavy, rounded, full
of magical properties of so many
while carried there imbued for one
my black seed of dying
37 Retracing Steps Of A Turning World, At San Remo
Orange in overlight stilts the breakwater
Ankle-depth numb to news of the tide
Though ripples run agog under the frog-legged bridge
The waders' disregard for the paperchase of insects
While nocturnally an egret alone is studious
To read between the lines in his library of pools.
About the twists of piping, man-wrecks and tin
He softly browses, a softer blue than grey:
An army veteran, an association with craters
On mudflats that suckle sensuous as piglets.
This spells the duelling scars on faces,
Where a man struts his playpen trapping toys.
On sandy crops overpowered dinghies bank their sides
Whitely tangerine, this ghostwood wean stretches
Rope and warping panel, by the channel's edging fettle,
A cormorant's moisting body waifs,
Raffish neck buckled by the water's metal.
Silverwing churn for those eyes.
Bridge lights douse bar the red centre guide.
A human hark suspensions as any kestrel drips sight.
Nor'west on the wingtip of a swan to Rhyll: an aurora of cities.
The wind scents no moodforce, rent swayed.
The black water's sheen is a hen's shawl in darkness.
Tufts the moon's fetish with silver.
A moon-bell clocks and a flare-buoy answers.
The Saucepan at meridian overtilts and spills the beans.
A dawn press of news sheets and dozens of doyen.
Jupiter and Hastings a keen keel keep.
An arthritic bridge creaks, clouds patter feline,
When birds fleck the grey tide spawning.
38 "Here we are again …”
"Here we are again,
Happy as can be,
All good friends
And jolly good company.
Never mind the weather
Never mind the rain,
So long as we're together ... "
Toorak Village Theatre
Saturday afternoon matinee
circa - early Fifties.
Mum has her OK Peanut Bar.
I chose a chocolate-coated nougat.
Roy Rodgers today and Trigger! Roy,
the scrubbed cowboy with face and hat
shiny as the mane of his horse.
Always too engrossed to boo
the man in black, I bored of Rodgers'
singing and playing of his guitar,
slowing action down to zero,
a pause as irritating to sit through
as the instrumental solo on a 78.
Remember Ethel Merman's
performance energy in 'Call Me Madam'!
'Bush Christmas' which scared me.
'Jedda' and a whorl of strange emotion.
'Elephant Walk' pathway of sacred passage.
'The Joe Louis Story'. No. This was
at The Astor; and, later on?
and, was I alone? Final frames
of Joe's demise as a fighter,
punch for punch with Marciano ...
Ole Joe's pounded bones.
But more distinctly than any of the above:
a film of dance, and the end of dancing
after-horror used to rise up and surge and r
esurge at will for no reason it seemed,
across years up until puberty
'The Red Shoes'
red ballet shoes
upon a railway track,
crossed puppet feet straining on pointe,
ankle ribbons' sinewy strength of rope
slipped of their hold...
"Here we are again,
Happy as can be,
All good friends
And jolly good company!"
39 All the gay blades together in the ward
Bed pans arrayed
on a trolley
vertical sit balanced
Sydney's Opera House
under sail, floating on the harbour
off Bennelong Point
John McCormack on stage
courtesy of John Cargher, socialites
in the foyer waving to be saved ... otherwise
the ward quiet
McCormack carries all forward:
harbour lights, five bells toll hollowly
from the throat of a drowned man;
Lawson's careless men sing
of their departure; the diggers too;
evergreens unroll from starlights' pianola;
a poet works the press, pumping with both feet
A bold soprano
heralds in McCormack's "I dream of Jeanne... '
and Celtic hearts thump, flounder
through swirls of' ... the light brown hair.'
Now it is my father's turn,
a Scot's rendition, a colossal party piece,
that wrings all sweet imbibers to the core
gathering about the piano:
pretty Connie Wildish at the keys,
Florence has the giggles, "If that soldier
says that to me again I'll show him the door."
"Yes, Florrie, the bedroom door!" pips pretty
Connie Wildish, lapping from the keys
her tiny waves onto a shore, her fingers so
enamoured of "... the light brown hair."
Rose Jacoby, tipsy,
there's never a glass to be seen in her hand;
somehow set down glasses empty, but Ro is never
seen around'" "Drink? Oh no; I don't do that sort of thing.''
Aileen Burbank slinks like a vamp across the room,
her red-rusty hair out of order in the sense
of "... the light brown hair."
Colin Campbell, merry, wonderful to behold - ·'You know
the level of this punch bowl never seems to fall!'"
mentioned someone, dipping in.
"Red! is Fat telling that same old yarn yet again?'"
No matter, there's a better ending in store
han the one he gave before...
All the gay blades together in the ward.
Bill Brodie's soft tenor, timbre lean as himself,
wavy as his hair, liltingly
"Floating like a vapour
on the soft summer air."
40 “Your mother walks very purposefully”
"Your mother walks very purposefully Mr. Brodie. Very upright. looking
Yes. Her demeanour is one of
expectancy. It's the diviner nose
which leads her on, all a quiver of sense,
nose to the wind, monitoring suddenness
whose warning rasp
enabled maternal grandfather's abandonment
of Kaiser Wilhelm's Germany;
a caste's automatic commission into the military; uprooting
before a favourable wind's dispersion,
to a barely sensed
southern eucalyptus earthdom.
A nose first out the door
when stepfather. ex-A.I.F., took to
stealthy reconnoiter naked through the house,
proven trustworthy Lee Enfield in his arms,
firing into walls and roof and shadows
which lead her to leave home,
on a policeman's assurance that,
'They can't come and take you back
if you're supporting yourself, ducks."
o, she commenced industrial sewing,
kept herself in thread throughout the Depression
working in a factory in Brunswick; there
met Edie Thompson of San Remo, lifelong friend.
Lived alone a tiny bed-sit in St. Kilda,
36 Dalgety Street. since demolished.
Nearby flash ladies used to sleep in late,
Floss up with the birds would greet
'Gid Up!' prompted horses and dustbin-scrapping
garboes - one of whom sang out this morning
'Good on yer, love! You don't mind
talking to a bloke, do yer.
You're no stuck up snob!'
41 A young man loved her
A young man loved her
a pick n' shovel labourer
one Friday rang Flossie
asking for a date.
he was fighting tomorrow
at Prahran Town Hall
a seven guinea purse
winner take all ...
Would she like to come?
"I'm sorry," the girl said,
"but I'm busy tomorrow
and whatever days thereafter
will belong to another.
You know Billy Brodie
that gay-lark of parties?
He's got auburn sandy hair
he's tenor in our choir. Well,
we're engaged to be married
and I'm terribly sorry.
you'd best not ever
call on me again:·
A Jack-tar phoned her
that Saturday morning,
he'd resigned as a navvy
deserted his home
and widowed mother.
enrolled in the Navy,
was shipping out as soon a
s blood-cooled possible.
this was the laddie to choose
as a lover; she got upset,
she had married for love,
put aside any semblance
of taste for reasons other.
She remained upset.
"I'd never have had you!'"
Don't be so silly
you'd never have known me
I'd never have been.
you'd have suffered no loss
nor cankered memory,
you'd have had another
more stable than Billy
and blue-eyed me.
I'm of his ilk
that anonymous sailor
an itinerant wanderer
a pick n' shovel navvy;
I don heavy gloves
box on with Billy.
42 Sunday 6th April 1941
Sunday 6th April 1941.
Billy rang to say they
were off. Good luck pet.
Sunday 6th. Phone call to
go to Spencer Street. Rushed
n and saw Billy go off
in the train. He looked
the handsomest thing.
V/X 18122. A Corporal.
2/2 Pioneers. A.I.F. A bugler.
Entrained with his Battalion
for the Middle East.
Oh! I'm not allowed to say!
We married 29th of August 1942.
You were born three and a bit
years later. I felt you kick me
a month or two to go. Love Child!
Fat will leave shortly,
my half-brother. Those two
will meet up (to the devilment
of them both) in Egypt
on the jetty at Alexandria.
Colin Campbell. spied out by Billy Brodie,
who'd sauntered out for the day,
humping his kit down a gangway.
I wonder how long
they'll all be away? or if
I'll ever see him
But then he married again:
a bottle blonde pub pick up, who owned a house,
loon son and mother-in-law-in-tow soon to stay.
Suppose it's unfair of me to say.
I fell head over heels
for your father
the moment I saw him. I've
never regretted my feelings.
43 Pop wanted her to arrange
wanted her to arrange for an abortion.
This was me.
I might never have been.
I can't get mad at him though.
Hadn't I arranged such an operation
for a young woman
many years ago in Sydney's Kings Cross.
Together, we'd knocked on the door
of the first nameplate
ushered in politely by this head-veiled sister,
admitted quite casually without prior screening.
Were asked how we had found this surgery?
Guided footsteps, laughed we.
(Tintacks covered the carpet!).
How much did it cost, doctor?
How much have you got?
I made myself afford it.
He was always broke.
44 Words are absent
Words are absent,
where once they were profuse
in mind, in speech, on shelves in fact.
a librarian - by virtue, not
xamination: a literate school's
voluntary finish of reading
each and everv new title
acquired for the stacks.
(Give or take a Western's,
'Danger Point at Dry Gulch'.
or the wet romance. ·Nurse Moonshine meets
'The Vogue Book Club·,
404 High Street Windsor, (Near Williams Road).
Library Hours 9.30am - to 8.00pm.
Wed. Closed until 6pm - 8pm.
Books lent for periods of ten days.
Westerns & Romance Charge Threepence.
Novels Sixpence. Ninepence current best sellers.
One Shilling recently purchased novels
much in demand; for these
a waiting list prevails.
Old ladies in their rooms
read aloud into a hearing horn
propped up on a cushion placed
to the ear of a wonky-kneed cat
lying warm, purring out bass rhythm,
their five-fingered stylus
grooves low tone addiction in dolby from the bed;
old ladies from her library
take home for this audience
(on Florence's recommendation)
heart-stopper horrors together with
passion's genuine romance.
My Sunday morning job:
retrieving overdue books. ·'Never mind
should they refuse to pay the fine,"
said Florence, "make sure you collect the books!"
T.V. killed us off. Florence
introduced sidelines: paperback swaps, plain
line drawn greeting cards were
tinted with watercolours;
our fortunes hovered. then went the way
of all words, down a page
to a blank end cover.
he sold off most titles,
including I was told later, Lawrence's 'Seven pillars...
Jane Austen's Complete Works, and so many others
that it seems now from this distance.
like a fearsome culling of first cousins.
To no avail,
the library closed, in debt.
As your diaries log, Florence, your
absence on bare paper. Like emptied shelves
white spaces ream silence.
At Alzheimer zero.
words disintegrating alive
on a page, letters blown apart
from a testing rock
sticks and stones
of a universe, blasted and scattering
dead Globefish, bloated, high and dry
on a white shore of sand -
bulging eyes, erect spines, blunted heads.
So the Hun came over the hill.
Her gibes heave their lungful!
45 Mr. George Harris of Wonthaggi
An olde-world gentleman
of charm and whiskered manner only now rang off'
clean-bristled Mr. George Harris,
skin like scoured parchment
holed with peepholes, veins hieroglyphic).
"Wishes to be remembered to you.
How you both shared a room
in hospital together with a chappie from Inverloch.",
(George was 'Wonky Finger'
to my 'Bung Knee'. Our companion, Arthur, was
"I've invited him soon to call.
He will do so, and will drive over
should weather remain cool,
tourist traffic enroute reduce still further
from scant to scraping zero, (thanks be
our local Co-Operative Culling Group)
that the white horse on the hill
beside the turnoff at Anderson
be alive, not sway-back in its grave;
(saddled with one too many riders?);
running line continual along
steep green slopes and contours,
where sombreros of birds jet upwards like haloes
with tonsured cries of, 'All Saints Alive!'.
Expect him sooner than expected,
later than first thought of;
boxed in one way or another
via a mixture of thoroughfares -
bitumen white line and curve,
rigour of means along the Long Paddock;
gentle even rotation:
field to hill beneath tracks from slope to field.''
46. Over The Woolamai Hills And Far Away.
Thanks to our chauffeur Mr. George Harris
Outside, only the wind pokes around,
Mumbles about something left undisturbed.
My library's asleep, there's not a book open on my desk.
Like dog's ears chins of bookmarks droop, fall... splutter?
This San Remo night
Waves in the Narrows spray a few coins,
Call in the spinner moon.
Among sand-dunes, the hill which backs Wal Thompson's,
Neighbourhood cats have a card game going.
Impossible to approach,
Lookouts are posted in the ti-tree and pine,
With the magpies have formed a pact.
The loneliest beach of them all,
Even in daylight, is up the west striding
Soldiers' Road at Bass.
Tide in or out waves there never tumble.
No gymkhana along this stretch.
As though, once and this potency enough,
blithe movement was the blessing from all silence.
One reason the black swans patrol there:
So many overturned war helms, chin straps gnawed,
Plumes slicked down by salty wavelets.
These choristers must be the old soldiers,
At war once, in the dreamtime, with forces
From Corinella, who attempted a boarding party
Upon the porous mud-finger vessel
And were repelled, both sides
Suffering heavy losses.
So this watery expanse is a known sacred space.
This quietness a covenant of non-aggression.
Anzac Cove has this likeness,
The gullies and heights beyond.
One doesn't cope with Shelly Beach.
A few shells for collection, cowries, neddies,
Limpets bulb the stain of sunsets,
Or Welsh Dylan's 'Bride bed... at the wanting centre'.
Then one takes leave, preferably over the monkish dome of
MacLellan's Hill, having earlier this day,
Traversed the boulders where the cliff's strength
Is seen in its out-throw.
The panorama answers more than a wish,
We sense a deliverance.
Those sand-grains on the shore,
May slope that absorbent view of
Themselves in throe beside the sea.
We are not impressed by their findings.
But shall take upon ourselves a migration,
A paper frailty like that of the nautilus
On its seven-yearly saunter, fearing nightly
Under a bomber's moon the gulls' 'Ahoy!',
The unhesitant thrash-back of water from rocks,
That we shan't beach okay, scooped by a human finger,
A poem onto paper from the mind of a journeyman.
47 Winds of an equinox
winds of an equinox
buff colour a seaside town heavy yellow air
a ute pulls away from the pub
clouds mass white and broiling
clutch, trail about
roofs and walls of buildings
a ute pulls away from the pub
in their skyward craze
birds dash and skim,
chimney stacks unlit lighthouses
doused of warning; air breakback
shearwater lift off
for the Sea of Okhotsk, north of the Sea
the ute puts out slowly,
sloughs off from a grey panelled body
parlour porch light of the pub,
canopy loose at one corner of the tray
with box in hand
a large pet carrier hip-balanced box
a man moves up and down his street
boxing up grounded shadows
that peck and bite, draw blood,
for release upon the back beach dunes
while a woman on a rise by a gate
spies out wind-entangled
too weak for flight
the ute glides by leaving him his beat
chortles elevate like bubbles from the cabin
ignition for another side of town
sea breeze morning light
upon empty dunes
long paddock corner, green bladed shoulder
of Cemetery Hill -
48 She was never a gossip
She was never a gossip,
nor a life's history
she was a listener rather,
to the moods of others
hers was the compassionate ear,
with a naive readiness
to be astounded by the groping
of those hugely material
she was useful, and used
for stopping in the street,
for the deposit of those moans
and grouches one's own family
would not tolerate from
kith or kin
there was no friendship
on offer in the town,
which would have invited her in.
'Gee, she's a dag!' was pronounced,
after a shopping tour's inventory:
pension cheque, bank book, shopping
list, monies, went haywire...
illness flooding in,
across character an immersion.
I remember one frightening evening,
a collision! two of the port's shark-fishing
boats had radioed in from deep at sea,
far out in a storm-swelling Bass Strait.
News was of a collision, nothing more,
and relatives and friends of crew
joined fears upon the wharf awaiting precious
sightings of those home-heading boats
which appeared, slowed by damage,
off Cape Woolamai in the Eastern Passage...
All hands were safe! and emotion powered
across that wharfs bolted beams and planks
so poignantly, so dramatically, as knock-about waves'
arched volumes across pitched engine-vibrant decks.
Florence in a white crest of tears,
lurched forward: she congratulated
one gathered group of wives
and huddled friends
and the women snubbed her off,
the dismal things! too ignorant
of empathy, too know all of their husbands'
danger, too shallow in their own draught.
The town's wharf recalled
groans of shaken uprights, a bumpy docking.
49 My wallet's walled in
my wallet's walled in
buttoned up compartment
two bullet cases
identically marked striations
print of a rifle's thumb
fired on separate days
nsured she would stay
within her capacity
unwelcome, feral strays, homeless
from the foreshore undergrowth.
stressed to stay, scrounge for bits within
speechless bulwarked distance
on my patch
that I protect
that will contain two fewer
than their number
of separate beings, separately,
once and enduring,
an orphan sat bewildered
atop a grave
two bullet shells
print of a rifle's thumb
ensured that she would stay
in my mind's walled in buttoned up cell.
50 In the crook
in the crook
of her drawn up
egs, a black cat snuggles
and warmth is shared,
but the woman
reading her book
by the light of a lamp,
and a nearby street light
play faces on the blind, pull faces
within the design
they are really there
they are in here
laughs her mind,
those old loves of mine
but the woman
laughing at shadows
her mind skims the story,
such nice people in a Nevil
not sensationalist, nothing or rarely
they live out their day in relation
to one another
this drives me
this book is finished,
I'll mark my reading
on the inner cover
I shall begin another
but the woman
51 Marco is dead
Marco is dead
struck by a car
in a Collingwood street
in a gutter somewhat east of the bus shelter near Wellington.)
Mi Mi is dead (Wee Mim)
struck by a car
in a Collingwood
(Wellington, south beside the drain
near the southwest kerb
Her beloved cats, companions
of 18 and 17 years
she was never allowed authority
to realize this -
clove hitch too complicated a route
for the poison to follow.
Strangely, at no stage were
these dear pets missed;
not once ever recalled to mind,
to speak of, to speak to,
unlike for instance, Eleanor,
(Queenie) her mother, aunts Rose,
Aileen, Constance, and half-brother
Colin, companions all, still;
nor, for that matter, over
evidence frozen for a lifetime,
the beguiling fact
of the absence of her father?
To be orphaned in childhood is a sad experience over which
we have no control; but to be orphaned in age is our own doing.
It means that we did not choose wisely in our youth.
Saturday Morning Editorial, The Age Newspaper.
52 Profundity of an Age editorial
of an Age
not folded; tucked away
in leaves of a diary
during the 70s.
A decade which saw
her light of day
and fully encircled,
trunks and stems,
Macbeth's encroaching forest.
I watched and saw
her light of day diminish-
"I'II never fall in love again"
I heard her promise,
having done so thrice
in one lifetime (to my own
0 lucky Florence
this time victim,
a friendless ebb,
a throwaway dark-
Your cry was honest
... lucky Florence!
Profundity of an Age editorial caused this ageing woman distress:
"Where are the dead and
dying children whom
we blessed? Why were they
manhandled, dispersed, dispirited
from us? each skull a deep under-
ground cavity, a catacomb into
the quick of a parent; when may
we visit this familial space of
ours? unfamiliarly tripping,
falling about, stumbling as if
on bones of an ossuary; and
why isn't this space filled
in? and why have tiny crooks
of phalanges found reason of
disinterment to this surface?
Oh! how lined my face is."
her light of day, in amber,
lessen, one weakening thinning ray;
entry denied to the forest floor,
Macbeth's holocaust of armoury,
how one solitary shield
of all that poised greenery
dared deflect her life away,
"O yet defend me friends,
I am but hurt."
Nay, Florence, I cannot
defend thee, sinking as thou art
of ageing newsprint...
But of that deflection:
"Do you see this?
Look on her,- look, her lips -
Look there, look there!-"
O lucky Florence.
53 Home is my company
is my company; reduced
to my presence.
Home is no longer an abode,
where one lives
with things: objects desired,
gained/sought after, acquired.
Home is where
it is also where
God is, and Jesus
whom she loved.
Florence is where
we all finally
will to be
with our beloved people
of similar eyes;
neither alone with them,
for each is multifarious and attractive to love
nor mullingly overshadowed
in wordplay by others,
whose access to speech is more varied
han our own.
We lie easy, whosoever we are,
in range of our pivoting centre,
without need for thought of continuity,
nor that enervating
energy of seconds
our imagination fallen
Florence lives in company
chosen for her, and by her. I am
of her chosen people
(she has told me so)
and I live in this beatification,
thousands of years
54 Floss and me
Floss and me,
on a Sunday evening,
Eyes roll back,
lids half close -
white water danger
It's a good surface!
Gulley Jimson's wall.
Grimy chapel roof.
Ingrained, washed, cleansed
chapel ceiling: restored heights
gleaming above scaffolding!
As W.H. Auden wrote:
'... poetry makes nothing happen'.
But it can determine a life.
Floss and me,
on a Sunday.
55 Worry lines have left her face
Worry lines have left her face,
packed up their bags
dumping belongings - Well, all told,
a roll of emaciated lino; one rheumatoid lankwire bed
in stress once with a rack victim's straightened
circumstances; a mattress knotty knight of the road,
(bloody moral for short shrift of any dreams);
a beat-up bastard of a ute that's given me
the push for the last time...
all dumped, the mangy lot,
onto some forgotten heap of tailings
back of a once locatable ghost town.
1 am one of those living legends
who keep on living in the vicinity. I recall
when I was once avidly sought after
by Tourist Coach Captains -you can guess why.
A much travelled lady once called me her cicerone,
an' she give me a kiss. I've never forgotten that word.
Well, one burned out day I couldn' talk no more.
Saw 'em coming so's I ducked for cover.
George the driver he spots me dust, reports me silent,
him being without direction among the ruins. The
Company took exception,
graded through a new route out that-a-way,
one with culverts in all the right places,
an' less dust.
So that was that! with me happy as Larry
doin' this an' goin' about
No! I'm not alone. Larry's out
that-a-way hatting on as ever. Rarely
bothered to come in for tucker
even when the joint ran to fat. There's
Eric, and his brother Ted ... suppose they're
underground as ever; rare for them birds to surface
even in the best of times... an' then never together.
Horst or Harry as we knows him,
blew in one day; lives in the old jail;
never seen him smile so much as of late,
since people left... keeps to himself
behind bars, found the keys loitering on a hook.
Jail's got no roof.
All of us here an· this brick. why!
we've outlived death - we're into decay. Men
all bone-tired muscle an· loose skin
gone wrinkled in the sun. Liable or no. once
dipped in, held in by the tip of one heel,
light of all eyes on a kip's tossed whirl.
I bit dust, without credit. ..
too often razed by the constant turning.
This scrub n' stuff, well. it's hunger raw -
much like a spinner bowler's busted callus
split deep, spun splinter sore
into his tweaker finger - bloody useless!
Miraculous once it heals though,
an' he's on in given flight.
Wait a shade longer. can you?
See what the Coach Captains never see.
A light that … which begins
on a lift of air right under your feet.
absorbs whatever colour each flower patch throws
in a dye of wool across a loosely clumped plain: core
rises without centre among tufts shaped and spaced
all angles. an' ...
there! there now. about us here. just by -
while the sun is blinking, shaking away sweat... Hah!
I am so totally glad...sea-white
Isn't the beauty prodigious.
A man arrived here once,
wrote poems all of his stay; he said
oetry was not a hobby
for those too tired to do anything else.
Whatever do you think he meant?
I wish you well on your travels.
So lonely? No.
Our shadows lengthen, we lie down in rows.
A gravestone's weathered face
I no longer die
56 Sunset Over The Eastern Passage And Western Port
I touch wild sea birds with my sight,
And wring those hearts, whose blood
This San Remo dusk has
Across the sun's sheet of herb and willow ground
A paraph of birds, black, indelible,
As a line of scripture is to a hafiz.
Only to Rhyll (flap flap) only to Rhyll
Mocks their tribunal; to a sanctuary sitting,
Or the African stillwater of the Newhaven swamp.
An angling wave chugs past my heels
As I stoop for coal; there's a dirge
And potency of flame upon the shanty town.
Now a philanthropy of fingers
Through which the sinking water slips,
Crinkling from the crown of the sandbar yeast.
Cry ternlets! bunch inert as argon.
Over the sandy riven mound,
Slinky syrups, Gestapo-dark, chute.
Over all is a year's silence of poems.
I peer into the water's marrow,
At the manufacture of shells
Watching the transit each occupant takes,
Leaving them vacant to kip on the tide line,
Multiple as a prophet's promised mansions.
Six ribs of the lime-wreck are bare.
Pylon cables do not twist in their turrets.
A pelican postures Cleopatra's barque
Out of Actium, on Corin's cliff
Subsides the frieze of that battle...
Waves tell from Antony's cutwater.
Hey! I've gotta go. There's a frilled lizard
onto my nook of wall. Seems to me we're
running short on erect walls.
Why do I stay? Well,
I've got the memory, you see: I've got the memory
of how it all used to be.
She's buried out that-a-way.
That's why I stay.
Malcolm Brodie has lived at Cape Woolamai since 2000, writing poetry and producing plays. He has won several local poetry competitions and performed locally in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Robert Burns' birthday celebrations.
For a time he toured the arts festivals – at first he read his own poetry but when he discovered so many people were ignorant of the poetry of Lawson, Banjo Patterson, Dylan Thomas – even Shakespeare – he changed to recitation.
His mother, Florence Brodie, is buried in San Remo cemetery.