‘Bookshop Exchanges’ in Neighbourhood

Illustration: Oslo Davis


My poem ‘Bookshop Exchanges‘ appears in Issue #4 of Neighbourhood.

The bookshop it mentions is Sappho Books, Glebe.




Tramsheds, 2011. Photo by Tim Brooks.

Those old trams were like wrecked ships in the swirling murk
of an underwater crypt. We passed through in shoals –
some with cameras, some with rope. To enter,
we’d break in through a hole in the fence, ignoring the sign,
and pass from sparkling order into shadowy neglect.

Back then, in Glebe, us weirdos could afford the rent.
But much can change in a decade. The only trams now in this locale
are functional, modern, swift – transporting the Great Washed
to respectable jobs – the carriages defaced not with spray paint
but ads. The sheds are unrecognisable –
gentrified and desecrated – entry is via escalator.

It’s Sydney’s Most Dynamic Food Destination, but you can’t get
a sandwich – the closest thing is a croque monsieur, topped
with a duck egg. The exposed kitchen reveals the chefs –
tattoo embellished, ironically bopping to Elton John,
proud of their ethical lifestyle choices.
Sixteen bucks – the sandwich is oily, hard to eat, and heavy.

Above the fluorescent overheads you can see the original rafters.
Up there, time is still suspended – particles of light in stasis.
Ten years ago, I was a witness – I saw past civilisation’s façade
to entropy. It was humbling and strangely comforting.
We fear what these spaces represent
so we make them functional again. The weirdos will go elsewhere.


The Perils of Yes

The perils of yes

He has a thing for women who say ‘yes’.
A rarity in this, the age of suspicion. ‘Come with me,’
he said the night we met in the pub – a test.
‘But he’ll rape you,’ said my sister.
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx‘She’s fine,’
said his friends, ‘his house is just really messy.’
Out we went. Beneath stars – fumbling
with hems and hosiery and underpants and denim.
Delinquents whose skins hung limply over the barstools
where they’d been shed.
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxThere in the dewy grace
of middle night we were mud crabs at last, hiding
in the imprints left by bare feet in grass; crouched
beneath intrusion. Our cubby hole in a black hole,
splayed into the descent like Japanese game show
contestants destined for a vat of slime.
It’s a funnel, a space where time seems to atrophy
when really it speeds up
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxuntil inevitably,
as if to the sound of clicked fingers, I’ll proceed to wake up
in a hundred versions of morning, each progressively
more dishevelled. The price you pay for enlightenment –
your kite’s in the gutter, your car’s in the tree.
But there was an ozone smell that lingered in the lilac
mist, an electric charge that sent static
explosions between our fingertips.
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxOur alien
craft, a barf-stained mattress in Sydney’s Glebe,
billowing smoke in a dusty roadside ditch,
shaded by swaying blades of rippling wheat.
Children on the edge of a ruined world,
with rebuilding the aftermath with sandcastles
made from cigarette ash and pizza crumbs
and the crushed-up remains of last night’s wine glasses.
‘You want breakfast?’ he asked. I said ‘yes’.