In hard rubbish week, while the street is lined
with broken couches and abandoned TVs,
someone has shredded a phone book, leaving
white and yellow pages like autumn leaves
all down Grandview Street. Some pages
have drifted into gardens, some
line the pavement or the nature strip.
Some look like a wild animal has gone to town,
some as though an angry child has destroyed
all evidence that the rest of the world exists.
If pieced together, they would make names:
Michael who cleans the pool, and Vince
who’ll re-gas the aircon if you ask.
Wanton destruction, this shredding of leaves.
The names are torn; the refuse remains,
and their lives clamour down the street to be known
while memories too are thrown away,
with all the things that we just outgrew.
All night we pour out bitumen;
by day we mark out new lanes, construct
the avenues of better days,
the now-not-yet of our ways.
We close our eyes before the promised land;
passed over, we pass over the times
when paddock became mill became smelter.
Not done with the smelter yet, and yet
when the day is done, we wash our feet
after kneeling and washing
the paths for all feet. This new command
we half-receive as ash turns firm as clay.
Even in new homes, morning has old narratives
formed by other mornings,
by schedules, by delays.
So I approach the day as though it’s been before,
its parameters are fixed,
its possibilities known.
Adam beheld the first sunrise,
called himself inventor. I
almost ignore the miracle, too entangled
in strands of ground to see sky,
a scattering spool
of morning-pink cloud-thread
entwines my eye.
Not a word, as such,
but a message nonetheless,
a promise in this time of dust:
If this is how I hold the clouds,
then how much more…
And I am caught:
a moment between ash and new birth.
New Adam knows dust
and I am consoled in this knowledge.
the first breath of autumn
above the freeway ramp, the breeze
has blown the top of a leafless tree,
all severed head, onto the road
where cars, eager to catch the green,
dodge that bunch of twigs and race.
I too have raced,
and now I race – in head, in heart.
The day begun, its chase in me,
I would be severed
from all that I’ve considered green
to see where I must rest.
...the war he brought back with him is never far away in this suburb.
(Steven Carroll, The Gift of Speed)
Do you remember water from the rock?
How you quarried homes in this ancient soil,
when these broad meadows were the stuff of dreams?
Remember when the men came back
from years and years of wandering,
said, This is it, we’ll build it here,
and none of Egypt’s garlicked meat
could appetise their hearts away?
I was young. I don’t recall,
and was not there for much, or all.
But in the now, with homes all here,
the time is right to know again
what wilderness felt like.
Nothing else open at this time,
only this one ageing witness to morning weakness.
Yet even the shop at the station’s closed –
“til April”, as though
the station itself were fasting.
In uncomfortable chairs, a man sleeps,
unlikely to remember the morning trains,
and outside the transit of ash to dawn,
a vermilion promise as the streets,
unaided by coffee,
What a discrepancy between
the joyful winging of birds
and the fear in men and women…
(Jean Vanier, The Broken Body)
And how one cricket starts
a neighbourhood symphony
in the grass of our roaming
near the concrete of our homing
in these streets and these footpaths
at a Friday-pink dusk
while the street in its silence
has houses and heartbeats
(through one window, hear dishes;
through another, hear Dickhead
be shouted – no reason);
and the moon in gauze sleeping
says, Here’s to a safe night,
watch over us, dusty
from the day, cool from night
watch our wandering, half-hoping,
down these byways and laneways,
all these avenues of grace.
Distance disturbs my orientation.
When I calculate how long it takes
from A to B, I live inside
my cosy lie
that B is only down the street,
that all my life can be spanned by feet.
But freeway exits dominate.
I name streets and suburbs like family,
yet these are not local,
only your garden beside me
and your never-known name.
I would rest here and learn the generations;
too long I’ve lived in wandering,
too long been east of home.
Yet A to B has distance
until distance is gone.
For now, where do we live?
These streets are made for walking:
quiet, reflective, built atop a hill where the cityscape
sinks beneath a thoughtful gaze.
No walls to be broken, no walls to repair;
watered gardens greet the roaming eye,
an expectant couple waits
at the edge of the evening street.
Fruit trees, plane trees, crickets in the night:
all of this is built for peace,
but never built to last.
Some hands hold their stories tight;
others hold them open, to say,
Here I came when the war was done,
or, Here I lost my mother.
Hands cupped like hearts line the street;
stories filling houses beat.
Old street names speak of sheaves of wheat;
some go out weeping, some sing,
dream of other homes, or these,
and best and worst all suburbs breathe
and hearts still beat Your name, although
in early autumn dust we seldom
stop to hear, to praise.