‘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.


My Friend’s Mum

My friend's mum image

“I once loved a hobo in the park.”
This was my friend’s mum talking, her papery face
suddenly a lantern. I kept prattling
as if she’d said something ordinary, something
not quite so aligned with my own predicament.
A hobo in the park – my inner tape recorder
got it, even if my drunk-mind didn’t.
Her eyes were the same blue as a Sydney summer,
the same eyes that once treasured society’s trash.
The stupidity of wisdom. I told my lover
once: “You’ll end up like one of those guys in the park
you know, the ones who yell at nothing and throw
bottles at people.” We were in my car, driving
across the Harbour Bridge. “I don’t care!” he said,
a fresh burst of spittle coating his week-old t-shirt
like air freshener, the cheap kind that’s labelled ‘Alpine’
in black letters, and smells even worse than shit.
It was 11:30 by the time we made it to his office,
which is either shockingly late or “Just in time
for lunch!” depending on whether your half-filled glass
contains vodka. At some point I suppose
I’ll have to stop finding him hysterical
or I’ll end up with the surname ‘Jones’
and a bedroom with a leafy vista.
I know. But my friend’s mum doesn’t lecture
because she knows the wilfulness of love,
the hurricane that howls in from nowhere,
from stillness to gale force in a breath.
Transient as we all are; voyeurs in a dream.