|Regarding lettuce to the editor
(Northcote, April 2010)
With a heavy heart this letter I write
Forwarded by email without any spite
To advise of a decision that’s like a divorce
And that might very well end up in the courts.
Fought over each morning like dogs with a bone
Your paper to us was like bread in our home
Delivered on time as the gold crumpet rose
To feed hungry minds and titillate the nose.
But persons unknown and darkly mysterious
Are engaging in acts that have proved most injurious
Your paper they roll and wrap in thin plastic
That launched through the air is a missile most drastic.
Three times in succession without any cause
Your paper has flattened our handsome green coz
A drive-by shooting from an open car window
Forcing my wife to dive straight under her pillow.
It is I admit not easy to pardon
Those who grow lettuce in their empty front garden
To dig up their lawn is just asking for trouble
No wonder the mailman’s reduced it to rubble.
So through this brief missive I bid you adieu
And trust you don’t find my rudeness undue
But for the sake of our vegies and to mend our rage
I regret this must be the end of The Age.
(Dili, March 2010)
The signs are all green and good
No mountain choirs or trumpets sounding
But a flooding wet season filling the wells of life
And fattening the tall fields of yellow corn
Just as her swelling peaks unbearably
And the countdown begins.
Five harvests on they read the signs calmly
And in the dark hours before the rising of the sun
Journey east to wait in a simple presepio
Not knowing what nature has in store for them
But grateful that the sweet fruit of their labour
Will soon be theirs to savour and enjoy.
After the bird’s call and with the star bright overhead
The thin shell of her body begins to crack
And yielding to the force within
Struggling like a nation to be free
Presents its secret to the waiting crowds
And gives our bairro its newest song.
Two malaes come bearing rice and soup
Gifts to strengthen and sustain the weak
But every birth is a virgin birth a woman’s work alone
And they find a mother not spent but swaddled in smiles
Flushed with the embers of afterglow
As though the sun itself had entered her.
Presepio is the Portuguese word used in Timor-Leste for the nativity mangers built by youth all over Dili at Christmas time. Here it is a reference to the maternity room in the Bairro Pite clinic.
Bairro is Portuguese for neighbourhood.
Malae is Timorese (Tetum) for foreigner.
|Waiting for a taxi
(Darwin, April 2010)
It won’t be long, said the voice
To the man waiting on the ground
At the edge of infinity.
Up high the wind herds woolly clouds
Into vast unfenced pastures
Soggy with sunlight
Continents break up on coasts of bottomless blue
Surf swirls over deep dark valleys
And a bird flies freely.
|A grumpy letter to Maisie’s violin
(Northcote, 14 October 1998)
To come straight to the point, I am very unhappy with you.
I’ll tell you why.
Maisie has played you most days – even more than Trish plays with Bessie, right?
She looks after you like a baby.
Rubs you with resin, tunes you, puts you down in your blue velvet bed.
Cradles you gently, like a little mother.
Sings to you and you sing back.
A perfect couple working in harmony (for the most part!).
Ok, you get irritated when she’s on the trumpet or the piano.
But that’s no reason to do what you did today.
Today, of all days, exam day, the high point of the year
You decided to play up.
I bought you new strings, the best, in Gertrude Street.
You have the best teacher in all of China.
You might think you’re pretty
With your sinous curves, long neck, big hips
And dark skinned complexion.
Usually I think you are.
But today, you look just fat and bumpy to me.
Was it Helen Boer that upset you?
Ok she does beat out the tempo making it harder to hear you
But you’ve got to learn to play second fiddle sometimes.
I know what you’re thinking!
That a poor workman blames his tools.
Well for once I am!
Otherwise how explain that you usually produce celestial sounds for Maisie
But today – of all days – you refused to obey and did your own thing.
You weren’t the one being examined you know.
No-one came like a doctor to a patient
And said, ‘Oh, poor thing!’, ‘she’s so uptight’, ‘so highly strung’, ‘so tense’,
Let’s prescribe rest and relaxation.
Ok. Ok. But for heaven’s sake, not today – exam day!
Am I being too tough?
Maybe I know that like Richmond you can play brilliantly all the season
Then, on the day, get the collywobbles and fluff it.
Even Patrick Rafter, who also likes his strings tight and plays tennis like a violinist,
Won the US Open one day, then lost in the first round the next.
Don’t fret. I know you’re not Stradivarius (more likely back street Shanghai).
But you’re not going to be sold or left under the bed.
You’re going to get another chance, and another, and another.
Until you finally surrender to Maisie’s touch and
Yield the key to unlock the beautiful voices trapped inside you
And make us cry helpless tears of joy and pleasure.
(Bali, January 2010)
On this smorgasbord of fruits you are the cinderella
Hard like a rock
Skin the worn leather of an armchair
Empty of colour to stir the juices
And easily passed over
In favour of your appetising sisters
Not least the golden mango
Lying soft-skinned in the half-light.
A Javanese burnished by the same sun
Demonstrates how to conquer you
Crushing you between clenched hands
He splits open your thick shell
Forcing you to surrender and reveal
Beneath layers of bruised purple
A wet white pearl
Sheltering shyly in your deep.
Eyes widen in astonishment at the find
A bounty hunter in luck
Weary Melchior sighting that new-born child
A student stumbling on the answer
In hushed cries we thrill
Then lift you to our smiling lips
To taste your creamy flesh
And flutter at your sweet delights, again and again.