My friend E., visiting from Kyrgyzstan and doing a day of emergency teaching while here, was chatting to me while I stood in the quadrangle outside the canteen, my duffle coat barely warding off the cold of the day as I did lunchtime yard duty. E. began to express her dislike of the weather; this amused me, given that she had spent much of her time over the past eighteen months in the rugged Central Asian winter of Bishkek. Wasn’t this, I reasoned, better than that? No, she replied; weather in Bishkek is constant, and the wind is less biting. It is easier to adjust to. But, I insisted, there was more poetic inspiration to be had in Melbourne’s constantly changing weather. When I was living in Malaysia, there was much less to write about; I had to find 500 different ways to describe rain and heat. Fine then, she said, write a poem about this. The yard duty? I asked. The whole situation, she said. The grey sky and the icy wind. Alright, I said. I will. And I did – though only loosely speaking. I used the weather as a point of departure, writing the poem in my head as I watched students playing in the quadrangle. Here is my poem.
The Last Friday of July
The game – an exercise in thinly disguised chaos –
Straddles the quadrangle with its puddles and pavers,
Where downball turns momentarily to shuffling
And pony-tails bounce with the aquamarine ball.
The backdrop of sky, though grey, refuses dullness
Against this flurry of movement which dazzles the lunchbreak,
And shirtsleeves, unfettered from those navy blue jumpers,
Seize on this constant movement to defy the icy wind.