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late October street scene

October 27, 2022

water falls from one balcony
smoke drifts upwards from another
to the rhythm of the song of powertools
a Cambodian version of the Greek chorus

motos flow to and fro on the horizontal plane
while there is a general stillness of mood amongst
those gathered on the pavement tables
with late breakfasts and early beers
while fans twist above energetically
and paper napkins respond

(sometimes the faces change
sometimes they return
sometimes they bellow as if
discussing something with the whole street
dogs and all)

shoeshine guy and sunglasses guy
walk the street for custom
alternating between weary resignation
and mangled smiles

but now I must get back to my desk
and see what mistakes I’ve made this week

the air unbruised

October 26, 2022

to be in that sweet and slightly troubled
graceful air for blissful minutes
one in a while

a peace not for purchase nor capture
but to savour and believe in
for delicate moments

a passing song
a splinter of breeze
a shaft of sunlight
only to be felt
not known
and not held

only to be beheld
in fleeting notch
in deep mind
a small quiet tune
hovering in the atmosphere

soft arrival

October 24, 2022

cosmic yammering
gives way to
soft arrival

like a whiskey glow
a flattening of creases
in the soul
a warm bath that
slows the mind chatter

the spirit of relentlessness
yields to
a slowing
a deepening of ripeness
where waiting is uncoupled from time

that which comes quickly
is often off-beam

when it comes
let it come gently
to soothe rather than excite
to envelope from the soul
then outwards to the world

Albert & Frank

October 17, 2022

Albert & Frank

TLDR: a middle aged poet spends some time with his grandfathers

when one of Einstein’s early theories about light bending
was proved correct
through observations of an eclipse and subsequent calculations
he celebrated by going out and buying a new violin
this is something I can identify with

of my paternal grandfather, also named Albert,
I have no similar anecdotes or stories
despite his contribution to my genetics
I know more about the other Albert
(having read a thick book)

unless, I guess, I indulge in a thought experiment
so beloved of the other Albert
to spelunk below the nurture and seek to find him
with my admixture of the physical psychic ancestorial legacies
that with infinite complexities define all personages

I never met Albert nor called him Grandpa
he died before my parents met and mingled
at an age that I have breezed past in recent years

he was an accountant from the north of England
a descendent of cloggers and weavers
who spent the last of his days
in Launceston in the north of Tasmania
these are things I cannot identify with

my maternal grandfather, Frank,
like Albert born in the ancient past of 1909
was a strong presence in my childhood
even though we didn’t live in the same neighbourhood
and proximity of influence was on a more annual type basis

he was adopted, like my sister
and was definitely Grandpa
others called him Curl
and his given name passed through to my generation
inserted into my younger brother’s name
and gifted to the son of my Vietnamese aunt

Frank was a man of humour and convictions,
with a varied career that included being
apprentice upholsterer, tea merchant and greengrocer
this is something I can identify with

when I knew him he ran Lilydale Sports and Toys
somehow I didn’t grasp the significance of this
until I was much older
I never remember telling my school friends
my grandfather owns a toy store
which sounds like a child’s fantasy
or the beginning of a story

but then mine was not a typical Australian boyhood
I grew up in libraries

other significant Franks in my life seem to be musical
which is fitting as Frank loved to sing
but of the contrasting styles of Sinatra and Zappa
only the former is likely to have appealed

Albert & Frank
Frank & Albert

they would have known something of the other Albert
and his theories
at least what was in the papers
and perhaps mulled over their significance –
at once they changed everything and nothing

Frank as a pacifist perhaps as horrified as the other Albert by
the development of what was then called The Atom Bomb
this is something I can identify with

the Albert who made his career in numbers was perhaps intrigued by
the higher mathematics

but tomorrow is another working day
more about relatives than relativity
more about toast and tea than atoms

Frank & Albert
Albert & Frank

ten years old when the first half of the world war ended
with the depression and the second half
waiting for them at twenty and thirty
eras when Frank’s team Collingwood won premierships
at midcentury Albert emigrated his family to Australia
only to be dead at 50
before my parents met and mingled

Frank died when I was 17
just as I was shedding my atypical Australian boyhood
and shortly afterwards I reversed Albert’s journey
and went to visit the ghosts of my ancestors on both sides
– I identify as British Isles mongrel –
and lived briefly amongst them as a tentative first draft adult
in the north of England
writing songs of the spirit and ignoring physics

it was Yorkshire
rather than Albert’s Lancashire
a difference largely expressed in accents, cheeses and ales
but I got a taste of the bitter cold and of the cold weather people

my tentative first draft of adulthood made the connection
– and the pilgrimage –
to the town where Albert’s son, my father, took his first steps
but somehow failed to grasp that I was amidst the
dark satanic mills of Albert’s life
and the reverberating generations beyond that run down
the trunk of my family tree

perhaps the cold numbed my brain
but then mine was not a typical Australian tentative first draft of adulthood
all I wanted to do was read and write and play music
maybe my grandfathers dreamed of doing all that too
but tomorrow is another working day

certainly my story strays far from theirs
and I will live out my days in tropical climes
(where cold is defined as 23 degrees
like on this particular morning as I write over coffee
on the pavement outside the guesthouse near my flat)
and I will probably outlive Frank as well as Albert

my life would indeed by unimaginable science fiction to them
even to the other Albert, with all his capacities

they lived by pen and paper
oddly, this is something I can identify with
even though laptop meltdown throws my life into chaos

Albert & Frank
Frank & Albert

when one shines a light who knows what will be seen
the sudden appearance of torchlight in the dark
can create unexpected illuminating observations
where none were before

the other Albert was part of a continuum
like a writer sitting along and thinking and scribbling
following thoughts through to their conclusion
as creative in his way as, say, Frank Zappa

the world is frequently recreated by people sitting in rooms
making stuff up
it all depends what you’re striving for
the extremes of art of science and science of art
make strange but appealing bedfellows
united in the quest for a glimpse of the divine
even if such is denied

Frank & Albert
Albert & Frank

while small business requires a certain amount
of creativity and improvisation
the phrase creative accounting has connotations
it’s all relative
but tomorrow is another working day
this is something I can identify with

I cannot imagine my grandfathers doing what I am doing right now,
sitting in a café drinking coffee and indulging in a beer
and scribbling for a couple of hours
Sinatra either
Einstein and Zappa maybe, but without the beer

I have read thick books about all of the above
except my grandfathers
this creates illusions piling on top of each other
dubious conclusions
as I make tentative first drafts of my sub-elderly years

but then mine is not a typical Australian middle age
even in these tropical climes

so here I am on this slowly warming morning
(it is now above 23 degrees)
having a beer with my grandfathers
and some other Alberts and Franks
albeit alone and in a place where none of them ever set foot
and this is something they would not identify with

as I once wrote, inspired by my beloved Cambodians,
what have I done for my ancestors lately?
this is a bare carving of initials just two generations down the family tree

how far back before was there no coffee, only beer?
when libraries and leisure travel were not for the peasants like me?
once upon a time the Einstein of his day
changed the science of his time
for centuries to come
only to be overruled in the laws of physics department

the Cambodians know that their ancestors built magnificent temple cities
that is something that I can almost identify with
but Gothic cathedrals and the works of Shakespeare and Newton
don’t feel like the fruit of my forebears
so much as an inherited cultural legacy for such a British Isles mongrel
as myself

the private world of my grandfathers is gone
only shards remain
I can only sweep them up
glue them together
and try to glimpse a tiny fragment of reflection in this dull mirror

they had more in common with each other than I with them
has this always been true for those
who live through the same times
and experience the same changes
who were adults before they heard a dial tone
who were adults before they flew in aeroplanes, if they ever did
who were adults before they were even in an automobile, if they ever did

how about trains? or bicycles?
even worse, what was the metaphor for something you never forget how to do once you learn the first time before the bicycle came along?
it’s just like learning to… walk? giggle? do Morse code or semaphore?
Albert & Frank would never entertain such foolish thoughts I’m sure
tomorrow is another working day

Albert & Frank
Frank & Albert
both more real to me today than yesterday
and more often than not, i realise,
I turn out the light thinking: today was an interesting day

mushroom, of chronicles fame

September 29, 2022

just like that he was gone

for one last nap together
he sat like a sphinx on my heart
perhaps saying farewell
I merely rested before the next lap
and then was gone
and in the morning I was alone

no sign of my companion
one month short of seven years later
which apocryphally means I’m almost
a completely different set of cells

his leap had been reduced to necessities
his appetite dwindling to naught
he was hiding more and more

then the morning came when he was no longer hiding
there was nowhere to search
he went where I cannot follow
not yet anyway

so no more complaints expressed in piss
no more early morning alarm clock of
deft and gentle clawing at delicate exposed skin
no more quiet companionship on beery feetonthedesk afterwork afternoons
no more blithe walking across the keyboard

April may be the cruelest month
but this September has been approaching vicious

and so another morning
and so another morning
and eventually I’ll stop saying cheerio
when heading out for the next lap

For Ernie, on the taking of his next step

September 28, 2022

happy trails my friend
and may the force be unforced with you

(from one who now finds the road calling less and less
one who now often feels exhausted
by the twists and turns the month-by-month)

it is refreshing and replenishing to be reminded
of the decisions that are there to be grappled with
anew in discovery as life so often is

(perhaps I’m just in a rut)

although our lives have charted different courses
and it is merely by outrageous chance that
we are crossing paths through this angsty decade
our occasional collisions and shared passions are
a source of bound and uplift

to puncture the sky with guffaws
to fill a sodden afternoon
to warm hearts

let us not say goodbye
let us instead say:  ectoplasm

Rain whackadiddle rain

September 28, 2022

the mood of the quiet city is still,
and the good solid citizens have made their way
to the pagoda in family clumps
carrying silver pails

now the rain crashes down on the indifferent empty street
the pavement tables were softly but rapidly emptied
as if by some rheumatoid ache alarm mechanism alerted
that it was best to leave at that moment

quickly the few visible pedestrians become umbrella’d
the few moving vehicles glide by shopfronts all shuttered
in honour of the dead

the storm sound is a chaos-theory inspired percussion ensemble
anarchic rhythms tightly arranged
if the vertical was slowed to the speed of the horizontal
and divided by the distance from the point of the
imagined receiving microphone
what savage beauty would be in that music


August 22, 2022

it’s brutal
the thud when it comes

tell me your story again
I’ve forgotten the details
and the important part
the only reason why you told me

I’ve read this book
I’ve seen this movie
but I don’t remember this bit
or this one

the repository of knowledge
has a backstairs leak
that goes unacknowledged

the strands of information
are not weaving into a coherent whole
snippets of history and theory
are not gently simmering up into soup

I left them alone to fend for themselves
but forgot to leave instructions

on a good day they play at
folding light into gestures
that point toward each other
but rarely make the distance

on a bad day they gather dust on a cold floor
lying in a jumble where they were thrown

with the occasional brutal thud
that there’s more to come

Jesus celebrates miscellaneous birthdays

August 8, 2022

the morning begins well as he blearily opens his presents
– new sandals! thanks Santa! –
and nostalgically re-arranges Christmas cards on the mantle:
sorry I can’t be there with you today love Mum
best wishes brother from James
many happy returns from Lazarus

then later on the gang shows up
for bread and fish, wafers and wine
Vishnu always demolishes the snacks in record time
Buddha tends to sit in the corner and smile
while Mohammed speaks in verse

Jehovah and Gaia make their brief respectful appearance
before getting back in their Prius and heading off
for more age-appropriate activities
like Christmas bingo at the golf club

then as the afternoon drags on and the heat sets in
Jesus sings birthday songs in his birthday suit
and eventually falls asleep on the couch with Mary Magdalene

in the cool of the evening the Apostles roll in,
with new supplies of beer and the karaoke machine
– they usually pool their resources, because Judas Iscariot
doesn’t get paid until Easter, and Thomas is always unsure about
his ability to pay the rent next week,
and there are on-going concerns about overfishing in the Sea of Galillee

Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are always
furiously scribbling in their notebooks,
but the notebooks somehow always get lost
and they have to start again from scratch

at some point there’s a timeless sameness to birthdays
as they pass
but every once in a while it falls on somebody’s Sabbath
and other arrangements have to be made

nothing beats a fresh pair of sandals, though,
especially the ones with go faster stripes

Rehearsals in blasphemy

July 23, 2022

what if the historical Jesus was
a tiny drip or flake of God essence
that was sent to this world
to figure out why it is so hard
to be a human?

how if you live with wisdom and compassion
even without a metaphysical air
you still stand a good chance of being crucified?

a kind of transubtantiation of drip or flake
or particle or wave of God into flesh
sent on a mission
– turns out it’s a suicide mission –
to address flaws in the system
and how to fix them

and maybe
– to overextend this blasphemous conceit of an idea –
they have been sent time and again ever since
the later versions keeping their heads down
in order not to draw attention
but rather to continue the project
sending back bulletins to the greater God essence
about how hard it is to be human

taking notes on the lives of quiet desperation
battles with boredom temptation loneliness
and the chaffing dullness and
endless blandness of moderation
and the horrors of unintended consequences

in a world where sloth gluttony envy
are regarded as deadly sins while
far more hideous activities are
given a free pass
even a blessing

be nice to the people you meet
they might just be undercover Jesus