Song of Trains and Trees
The train from St Peters to the city is packed, there’s sullen silence, not a fucking sliver of light in all that pastel Kmart colour, not a drop of joy in that 20lt bucket of failed human potential.
Full of Sunday shoppers, crying kids, over-engineered prams and one old couple cringing, being small, trying to escape the croaking meth-head corralling them into a corner, worrying at them for money or just some fun.
Through the no ones saying anything bleakness, all the thinking of only things, I see her among the shopping bags and the ill-tempered, pouting children, sitting perched on her seat like a perfect peach, she’s as gothic pale as mist, her arched feet tucked under her, delicate in small black Spanish flamenco shoes.
Her eyes burn with black dismissive fire and her finger-nails are liquid blood and, as she stretches them out like a leopard to check the sheen, her mouth opens oh so slightly and she’s black and white brighter then than all the garish colour on plastered those silent, unsmiling bastards.
But there is a fatal fucking flaw marring her beauty, her smile, so red and wicked, is pinched with a lemon sourness, sh’e dark cause she can’t find the 750g can of happiness she’s looked for in the endless Woolworths shelving and amongst the racks of a thousand fru-fru dress shops on Oxford Street.
I leave the train at Central and she’s gazing into a small mirror, looking saddened by all the things she will not have, but she can’t say it cause it all might spill to the dirty floor at her feet.
She comes back to me a week later when I’m looking at a tree, a big fucking tree, standing silent in the forest, no wind, no kids squealing, no clack, clack, clacking of the trains, no pearls among the rotten leaves, just one thing.
But I can hear a song in the long sloping silences, a song not wasted like another ungrateful fucking species wastes the song of just being and the not caring for all that shit.
A song of slow, inch by inch growth and two hundred years at least of watching refugees like me standing and wailing in the silence for the cataclysm of all that lost potential.
Winter has left them both rugged up,
the only patrons since opening
three long, tedious hours earlier.
I take his coffee to the table
overlooking the long sweep
of the storm torn beach.
The daughter, or perhaps his carer,
nudges the cup a little closer
tempting the old walnut from his sleepy reverie.
He catches a whiff of the coffee,
and splutters to life, coughing
like last years fire-cracker.
‘Pull up a chair?’ He whispers,
as a gnarly old root reaches
shakily for his weak cappuccino.
‘Well, the boss… I should be working.’
but the cafe is empty of tourists,
long gone with the sodden end to summer.
‘I used to live up the north end.’
With a little nod he indicates the beach
and a long story bubbles up in his eyes.
That’s where I live now.’ I tell him.
among the spotted gums and shrieking Lorikeets,
where the Bega River breaks out to the sea.
‘Was a ferry across the river then.’
And memory floods in and lights him up
‘Rode it every day on my walk to school.’
‘Is your house still there?’
My mind flies from this knotted walnut
to a grubby kid in flannel shorts and fallen socks.
Riding that early morning ferry,
forever dawdling along the two rut track
to the one-room school, high above the sea.
‘Buggered if I know.’
Walnut flinches and looks to her
‘She won’t take me up there to see.’
I look to his companion,
But she’s turned away, bored
studying the steel sky and the winter sea.
The thundering south coast swell
rolling up, white spit n spray,
is silently framed through the windows.
‘Notherie?’ I ask him rubbing my hands
as he looks to his empty cup
his mouth puckering in expectation.
‘No! It’ll send him bonkers,
won’t sleep with all the blather
about that dirty old fisho’s shack.’
I watch him shrivel like a fallen spider
the quick cold cut of her
no time for the silliness of nostalgic memories.
And sitting there, bleakness creeps in,
I feel new the cold shadows of winter
And long for home and a lighted fire.
And my home, there among the spotted-gums,
the whir and swirl of Forest Doves,
home suddenly makes me feel so damn lucky.
Suzie Manzoni is full of wild peaches.
Suzie Manzoni believes a smile
and a daily treatment of hugs
can save my tortured junkie’s soul.
She was once like me but now NA has set her free.
Leaning on my kitchen bench
She’s holding a pile of carrot peelings
in her soft henna-painted hands.
‘Do you have a compost bin?’ She asks.
But Suzie Manzoni says it
like she’s asking if I believe
in the one true Christian god.
My answer only confirms her worst fears.
Suzie Manzoni always hangs out
wearing that kindly knowing smile
a breeze that softly whispers.
‘I totally forgive that psycho shit you put me through.’
Suzie Manzoni believes she IS the citadel
where the heathens desperately want to be
where our sordid souls are set finally free.
She catches me smile that old leering smile.
I still love Suzie for her caring nature
and her incurable, sweet despair
at my growing pile of sodden misdemeanors.And I suggest we fuck – just for old times sake.
And I get the ‘I expected better of you’ frown
as Suzie drops the carrot peelings in my bin
alongside the beer cans and empty Vodka bottles.
But I know Suzie Manzoni needs me to be me.
Cause if I told her of my organic vegie patch
If I told her I’m trying hard to be good
the shock might be too much for her to bear..
So I smile, strike a match and make some tea.
She wiggles close and we flick through photos
and laugh at each other back in the day
and revisit all those crusty disappointments.
Like the vintage cloths, we both love to keep.
I’m in a mood – fouled by trendy Swedish furniture and the rolling maul of barge-arse shoppers intent on pecking over every tea cup and every damn designer cheese grater in the entire fucking IKEA superstore.
As my mood bulges from my throbbing temples, I note a prowling hyena, a cruising security guard, running point near the Turkish blue glassware.
I fear he may have overheard my disparaging remarks about that stripy lounge-suite ($445.00) somewhere back there in that madhouse, consumptive maze.
Distracted by a happy-fat family enthusiastically poking through the mustard yellow cupboards of a carry home, kit kitchen (flat packed $752.98) I nudge my brother-in-law…
‘Hey, look at those sad mother-fuckers’ I say, a little too loudly, as I rattle a Vietnamese lacquered bread bin ($18.50 for two) and the tin-foil door hinges give way.
And then he’s there at my elbow, the no-brained, bullish security guard – his eyes saying he wants to obliterate my smug smile with a white canvas folding picnic chair ($49.99) he’s lugging for some old granny.
The neon hanging lights have made me a little disorientated and I sneer and try to stare him down… a fool, I know… a god-damn fool, but I feel kinda invulnerable heftting the red plastic egg flip with a comfy ergonomic rubber handle ($4.75 or three for $10.00).
Taking my scrawny arm in his meat ball paws the security toady frog marches me towards the nearest exit.
My sister, not wanting to lose the shopping opportunity, looks like she might just throw me to the wolves – happy to see me pulverized ‘cause, where they’re from there’s not a god damn IKEA for a hundred miles.
Andrei The Giant is hog wrestling me through the Bedding and Linen section and, getting desperate, I claw at a pillow display n it comes with us – sixties style shlub-weave throw pillows ($19.00 for three) fly in all directions, till Andrei drags me onto a king-sized fucking Posture-pedic mattress ($899.00 not inc. base) and starts pile driving his elbow deep into my spine.
And now, suddenly there’s two of the big gorillas – they’re pulling at me and I’m thrashing and screaming ‘Guantanamo Bay’ as they drag me out the front doors to polish my face with their jack boots between two matching Toyota Corollas…
Dazed and confused, I notice my sister is tapping me on the shoulder saying… ‘Jesus, what the hell’s the matter with you, you frigging nut case, you’re mewing like an injured kitten for god’s sake.’
Looking around, I’m still standing, staring at a Smeg Bench Top Stove ($599.95) and the security guard has wandered off – bored – piss weak me not being worth the effort.
It was all just one of those shopper overload freak-out nightmares…
‘Come on’ my sister says… ‘We’ve got to get to the bathroom section – I need some new taps ($38.50 a set) for the ensuite – they’re from Uzbekistan… or Turkestan… or somewhere over there.’
And I’m in tow again and everything looks o.k.
But you never know what might happen in a maze of uptight Swedish furniture, frenzied crowds, hemorrhaging credit cards and an overzealous security department…
you never know… there could be bargains or there could be buggery.