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Car park hunger

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Big Issue vendor

To Do List

The rush to make drama class –
shoes, teeth, notebook, brushing
my daughter’s hair. Anybody would think
a war had started. Still, we make it
out the door, collect her friend, enter
Saturday morning traffic. Hopeful day.
I tick off jobs from my floating to do list.
It keeps me anchored to the here and now
a mental sheet designed to stop me from drifting
through the day hopelessly unencumbered.
At the Highton Circulator,
a roundabout large as a supermarket,
an L-plater nervously edges forward.
He waits, falters, misses the gaps. I shake my head,
pound the steering wheel. SUVs and Magnas
cruise towards us before arcing away
like a show ride that promises danger within safety rails.
He makes a run for it and I am hot on his heels,
pedal to the metal, turning to glare
at drivers who have to slow for me.
My daughter and her friend rehearse lines
for an upcoming concert. Horses in a paddock
have them squealing. We pass the tents
of a Farmer’s Market. Cars drop down
Shannon Avenue towards us like chicks
falling into a chute. The jobs I have to do.
I turn right into West Fyans Street
flashing blue light,
police ribbons stretched between shrubs.
A policeman stands with a specimen bag
another chats to a man on the footpath.
The girls stare. Stalled traffic.
We wait, roll forward, wait, are released
to continue staring at the ribbons,
a policeman guarding the concrete driveway
to a block of flats that have always been there –
ugly, functional as a bad decision.
We make the class, just, and I am free
to return to my list, the record of my days
I cling to like a remora to a whale.
The radio tells me of a man
who took a container of petrol,
poured it over himself and struck a match –
a man who gave his body to flames
rather than be returned to a country of torture.
His death on a patch of concrete in West Fyans Street
as I was taking my daughter to drama.
Some days I just throw the list away.
Car park hunger
Tattoos and paunches
school kids on skateboards
4wds and Beemers
charity bins overflowing.
A topless man shuffles into Coles
The Big Issue seller is liked and avoided.
Buskers who specialize with the night
streetlights mooning the spaces that never close.
Each day is a rush to pick a few things up
keeping busy with baskets, not trolleys.
Tension builds after school pick-ups –
snarls at exits, windscreens for protection.
The day-before-public-holiday-gridlock
a line of drivers stare resolutely ahead
refusing to make eye contact. Like shoals of fish
other drivers angle in.
Barometers of wealth in a trickle down
economy. Each car space equals a business case
equals a Range Rover forcing its way through.
We lock our cars with a backward flick of the wrist
hungering for a quick exit, settling for a close park.
Some days there’s traffic
I drive through ennui into restlessness
past footballers training on an oval.
The hour of pick-ups and drop offs
office workers quickening at the lights.
Somewhere a whiff of grease –
a childhood mechanic,
his advice beneath car hoists,
one leg shorter than the other
and supported by a local who threw fits
on the oil-stained linoleum floor.
What I remember, what I forget.
Darkness gathering ovals and reserves,
brake lights arcing down Shannon Ave.
The streets I know, the signs I miss.
What is holding this ragged day together?
Night smells from out the back door-
spinach, celery, dirty water in the bird bath.
I marvel at the porch lights stacked along Wandana Heights
passing traffic, thankful to be placed, here, tonight.


Brendan Ryan


Brendan Ryan is a Geelong poet whose most recent collection of poetry, Travelling Through the Family 
(Hunter Publishers), was published in 2012 and was shortlisted for the 2014 Victorian Premier’s Awards.
Image by Michael Valli via flickr under Creative Commons licence.


Topic tags: Brendan Ryan, Poetry, Big Issue, modern Australian poems



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Existing comments

Thanks, Brendan, for many images to reflect on, as you capture the reality of life very well. Good too to be in touch with Geelong from many miles away!

Peter Dowling | 26 August 2014  

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