Did you know that Melbourne has a Brooklyn?
Mostly factories, but behind the freeway
Nestled amidst houses there’s a church, in
Low-ecclesiastic cream brick. Today
On my way to work I saw it, vacant
Being Wednesday. But on Sunday there’s family.
And I smelt the Spotswood Vegemite plant
With its playful chimneys; a child might be
Filled with yeasty dreams to live there, growing
Up on that street where happiness ferments.
My first home was a tambourine, singing
Its jingling sounds in south Queensland silence.
So I’ll write here for these other unknown homes,
For everywhere that’s never had a poem.
Stuck in horrendous traffic on the way to work yesterday, I began to reflect on the irony that, as someone who spends most of my life talking about reading and writing, I have remarkably little time to read or write. This is what those thoughts generated.
Jeffrey Smart painted this dying day:
burnt orange in floating smokestack steam,
needle-lights stretching in fluorescent dream,
the sojourn of light sinking in silent sway.
Daytime paints its canopy away
and minutes pass in inches as we glean
each moment, weigh each instant gram by gram.
Apologies buy flowers; much to say,
yet time is rare. I wish that now could be
a canvas on a wall that we could share.
I cross the bridge; I mount the street of bells.
Ascend, descend; the sound within us swells,
and expectation greets the seated air.
No movement; move. I gather you to me.
No other time of day can you sit still,
Here schedules mean nothing.
You may be late; that cannot be stopped.
Yet you can stop. You can look
at clumps of grass and broccoli gums
in wetlands and wonder how they looked
before this road was even thought.
You can watch
the faces as the windows pass
(no other time of day will you
see so many lives entwine).
Invent their stories.
Stop and know your own.
Hold last night’s mess in your hands
as you steer today’s wheel.
Consider the day.
Pluck your nose hair.
Watch birds fly back and forth in sequence
and fancy them a wind-blown sheet.
Name the clouds with metaphors
(a waterfall, a needle,
a walrus’s moustache).
Scan the forgotten gorges of your city and learn
how distances must be covered to move
to where you want to be.
Trace the sun as it chases the trees.
Learn all the textures of its light.
Watch the evening drape the sky.
Prise open this day’s grace.
Keilor-bound at the wheel,
a man plucks his middle brow over the hill.
Trucks speak in whistling brakes;
cars speak in blinkers;
billboards speak in covered-up breaths
and we, doubting ourselves, tremble forth.
Across gorges and bridges, organ-pipes hum
in the silent chorale of a wasted commute.
Gold glints through gum-trees;
grace glints in mirrors.
Wake up –
white, blue and dog collar carry this same weight
and glory hangs latent over the day.