(1) Last night I managed to get rid of a lot of my problems, Quite easy really, I got so drunk I couldn't remember What the problems were or even if I had one in the first place. This morning I clawed my way out of bed, And stuck a bare foot down on a moist and chunky mat. Then I smelt the smell of last nights vomit Puked some more and felt better for it. Fresh is always easier to clean. I could hear Jane, "You'll die you arsehole." That's what she always said. She was right of course, but not today, That will be some other day. I can't face the cleaning, it is a waste of time anyway. The carpet by the bed has begun to go into a hole, Either through stomach acid in the sick that hit the same spot, Or through Jane's and my attempts to clean it up. Or maybe something else wore the holes there. When Jane had first been here, we had often made love in the day On the mat in front of the window. Her on hands and knees her dress lifted at the back Me erect behind her My head and upper torso above the level of the window sill, Grinning like a lunatic at people walking by. She said I would loose all my teeth Perhaps like Mrs Pickup from downstairs I found Mrs Pickup one morning lying outside Her face glaring at the sky, the first dead body I had seen. At first I had not realised that it was Mrs Pickup from downstairs Then I did and I was shocked by the absence of teeth I mean I knew she was dead, But her face was all sucked in like a sex doll And there was no life What was left was just vacant space Filled with a body that looked a bit like she used to. But without teeth. She had this funny look on her face like surprise. Not shock or pain just surprise. So if her life was not quite fixed, At least it was less broken than it used to be And it couldn't get any worse. So Jane had said I would loose all my teeth and that scared me Because the acid would eat my teeth away like Away like the Carpet. I don't brush my teeth if I do I bleed for ages if I brushed, So I swill out with salt water and polish swill clean what I could Polish with the end of a sheet which Somehow had started getting used as a towel. A bed sheet towel. So I start another day. Climb into some clothes which were just wearable Open the window, Leave it open to clear the stink And wade out into the world to get some breakfast. And some more booze before I begin to forget to forget Whatever the problem was. If there was one. (2) I walked down the street towards town Past the student housing, with its windows wide And blaring mix of radio and CD players And scream-singing-talking students hanging out of windows And a three chord guitar player singing about some place He'd heard about in other peoples songs but never seen All above the row of shops All mixing into a frantic dub-raggae-jazz, pop-folk-rock song Past the chippy with its polystyrene tray and chip paper garbage Blowing in the doorways And its yellow stained curried pavement Curried chiped ground pavement Past the newsagent with its boarded windows and piles of milk crates Past the Philharmonic Hall with flapping flags Beating against paint pealing posts Down and down and down to Liverpool (3) My geography of Liverpool is marked out by bookshops Second hand shops, cheap breakfasts, And places where things happened Ye Crack where Jane and I drank on Sunday The Odd Spot, the Legs of Man The steps at St George's Hall where we cried for John And sang a pop song that became a secular hymn And where I sang for Jane before the police told me to move And Lewis', the phallic symbol of Liverpool Now looking limp and dangling like a dead fish There is so much of us in this place (4) The stupid brown tray started to shake as soon as I picked it up And as I tried to walk to a table it got worse so everyone was looking at me It got worse and the floor was sticky so I couldn't walk good like some sort of sick joke Someone took the tray, put it on a table in the corner Said something, left me The tray sat still on the table so I tried to eat But ever time I picked up my food it started to shake So I had to put it down It must be nearly drinking time That's what happens when its nearly drinking time Everything starts to shake till drink makes the world stand still again After I eat some I stood up and walked out Managed to keep it down until I got out Then threw up in a waste bin in Church Street I could hear Jane, "You'll die you arsehole." Maybe she was right But not today. (5) The night before she left Jane stood up and fumbled with the fastener on her jeans She pulled them down to her knees underwear as well Stood in front of me, For the first time I noticed her pubic hair had turned grey She rubbed her hand across it making sex noises I thought that was funny I laughed and she laughed Then arranged herself on the mat bottom waving in the air She made more encouraging noises, tried to sex herself Then I started laughing again She gave up We tried later but it was no good I just dangled like a dead Liverpool fish. Sometimes when I think about it I think that was our last failed attempt at communication But I could never understand why she wanted sex The night before she killed herself. I could hear her, "You'll die you arsehole." Maybe she was right But not today. Today I will get drunk before I start to remember Whatever it is I'm trying to forget.
How do Detectives Make Love?
How Do Detectives Make Love?, Penguin Books Australia Ltd, 1998.
how did my parents make love/ was it in the 1950s way/ in their pyjamas under the blankets/ could my father switch off from his job as he switched the light off/ when he made love with my mother in the dark/ did they laugh/ even though he told me he couldn’t bare to fuck her unless he was drunk/ did he still pick up the bits & pieces of people from under trains/ or leftovers from motorbike accidents/ the bloodied thighs & thighless women & eyeless torsos/ did he fondle the falling away breasts of bloated corpses dragged from rivers with concrete boots?/ was my mother’s body the autopsy or the imitation pornography from his blue movie/ & was his penis the .38 automatic or the black baton that he used to strike out with/ was their martial bed like the cold river bottom churning with unfounded death/ how do detectives make love/ did he talk code into her soft earlobe or whisper sweet double talk into her lips/ did he tape record her nocturnal sighs & her vulnerable words/ taking them down into his notepad heart to be withheld/ & used in a court of law as evidence against her/ did he keep her writhing loss of self under strict surveillance?/ could he love her/ opening his blue shirt or plain clothes up to her/ dropping away his folded arms his handcuffs & identification badge/ could he forget the prostitutes, drug addicts, screaming domestics, battered wives, shootouts & suicides/ the women in prison & the raped & bloodied murdered women/ could he switch off from them/ like he switched the bedroom light off/ what did he feel in the dark/ with my mother’s warm body beside him/ could he let himself be seen fully/ by her lovely half opened sexy eyes/ or by hard courthouse hearings & underworld gazes/ threatening to remember him expose & destroy him/ did he go undercover for fear of being found?/ did he take down her details or have her followed/ could he give a full description of the woman who loved him/ did my mother find a trembling & vulnerable man/ did she fingerprint & file him/ could he be revealed in a second before orgasm/ only to be charged with breaking & entering/ before his own little death, before the loud phone rang/ before the infringing twenty-four-hour call/ the hurried reaching for his dressing gown/ in the cold & stabbing air/ the impatient rap at the door?/ could he love her the way that she loved him/ or would he charge her with trespass/ his cold heart prohibited/ jammed up in car wreckages/ alone on grey train platforms pursued by criminals/ bashed up in nightclubs or in kings cross brothels/ sobbing in empty patrol cars or in big dark paddy wagons/ darkly in love, completely alone/ with bitten down thumbnails on the neighbourhood rounds/ in the early hours of the morning/ the doubtful silences of her waiting/ the two-way radio left on/ becoming fuzzy, switched off/ the heart imprisoned/ her sigh, his cough?
a committee of apostle birds, tiny black eyes looking out at the world from their group, during a morning feeding, the grey flock eating amongst leaf littered red soil, by 1080 fox and rabbit poison, on the edge of a nature reserve, nature reserved for us, a pine covered ridge on the road from hillston, is assembled through glimpses, a little cemetery and a tennis court, in the middle of nowhere, like at twin rivers, where the women all brought cake on a saturday afternoon, while the men got drunk, too drunk to play tennis, one fell off the back of a ute and hit his head, his dog looked concerned, it was very boring, blue bonnets, parrots, flash red, blue, 160 km south of cobar, it is the face of the blue bonnet that is blue, with the sky washed up its cheeks, they have thrown a bucket of sky paint from timid cunning eye to beak, wise parrot, the little blue bonnet in the tall open mallee, on the ground, beneath the trees, or up in the trees at midday, or in the deep galaxy of night, extremely quiet, hard to find, a patch of painted sky thrown up, awash and finally rested on a branch, 95 kms south of cobar, mallee ringnecks in the pine woodland break the fatigue of the drive with colour, with a look like a started paper fire, they pause to drink at sunrise, until the feather is lit, there is nothing as precious as a wild bird at this moment, the flare of feathered colour, the small squawks and workings of bird societies throughout the day of perfect weather, the winter rainfall triggered hormones in them, the cracking of branch and seed on the moist forage trail, deep along the shady ground, coming into cobar, the last 30 km stretch, of white cotton, fleece of the plant, and sheep fleece turned dust red, gone to seed, brutalised sheep, on the red clay, hard rose quartz beneath the broken hoof, hurt cotton, soft sheep, white-winged choughs gliding across the roads, eject their soft parachutes, spreading their tails like fans, fanning the red earth hard, they scoot across the road, the ground black bird of open woodland and scrub, easy targets for shooters when they are not still and quiet, they fall with insects in their beaks, they say, ‘we were only taking what we needed,’ precious sheep, precious choughs
The Secret Horses of Peterborough, Unpublished Work, 1996.
the she-oaks in the grey mist were roaring like trains, on a still day, they will pick up the slightest breeze, the land is talking, a train approaching from all directions, she-oaks, a few left standing in a grey winter field, if you stand long enough to listen to the roar, a paddock of she-oaks on the way to deniliquin, dirty grey bark and when there were trees on the land, many she-oaks and grey box and dry sclerophyll forest, there would have been many levels of roaring, liberate yourself by walking in a paddock off the highway past the crown land and stock route, keep going in order to die, the she-oaks are out there, talking to each other, beyond recognition, the mist rain gently hanging, filtering, to the point of saturation, dropping down through them, the large black ants are wriggling slowly, hiding in their holes, are clicking their iron bodies, brassy antennas and legs, deep in timelessness, red holes in the red dirt, listen to wind roaring through the victorian she-oaks, like a train approaching from all directions, whilst you remain in awe of the cold and directionless, the distance is helping you along, off the cobb hwy away from your vehicle, into paddocks of roaring she-oaks, sending you further in, upon your strange watery approach.