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Familiar fiddler man

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Last Night in Lygon Street

Hear that fiddle, quavery
but singing a familiar tune?
'Greensleeves' - so evergreen.

To its wordless melody

phrases float up from
my imperfect memory.

She's jilted him, he's lilting on -
the other words, I've never quite
got them sorted out.

Keening through the dusk
above the traffic noise, it's
some busking violinist

under the Lygon Street
curving tin verandas
by the flower stall - look,

isn't the fiddler man
familiar too? -
old colleague, McCann

(philosophy, retired),
still with the sad face
and the gaberdine mac.

Pension (I might ask)
not enough? Neither's
mine - I ought to busk

myself, but lack the tools,
the nerve, the skills.
And there's not much in his hat -

how much could he earn?
Honestly, this smallish coin
is all I can spare him.

I sidle past unrecognised.
Could it be money's not
what he's after, but to test

some theory once sketched
in ethics class, when someone
objected: 'In the real world...'?

Or in aesthetics,
what if the less-skilled version
moves one more than the most?

The Projectionist

The primary school shares the same sky
as the railway workshops;
has concrete air raid shelters,
useless now, since we beat Japan;

a green football field, clay
where boys play marbles, in season;
girls skip; six bare classrooms,
lavatories nasty - better to hold on;

kids who are roughs or waifs;
all of us in cheap clothing;
some with runny noses and bare feet,
and Father as head-teacher.

It's 1946, this is
Randwick near Wellington. Out
of bounds, beyond the stop-bank,
the river's forcing its way past fast.

Here nothing happens, slowly, till
Father does some fundraising -
a projector comes, rare and fragile.
He learns how to make it work.

No one else is allowed near.
None of us young ones have ever
seen anything on any screen -
we're agog for Charlie Chaplin.

Children and parents come one night
to Father's classroom. From home
Mum's lent him a white sheet, he fixes
it up straight, I switch off the light,

whirring begins, the sheet brightens.
Flickering black and white humans
stalk the sheet. Something is happening.
A man climbs on a diving board,

trots out, dives, splashes, vanishes.
Father flicks a switch, time freezes; flicks
again, feet first the diver rises,
curves back up onto the board.

All of us squeal with pleasure.
The evening's films, all short,
are never better than when Father,
powerful and popular,

flicks that switch, the image freezes,
time halts, reverses, pauses,
moves forward again, taking us
all with it along, along.

Going home in Dad's Austin Seven,
dreaming new powers, camera
projector and screen, a rapt crowd,
the river pulsing under the night sky.

A log like a floating man sweeps past fast,
vanishes. My camera eye strains and fails.

Max RichardsMax Richards is the author of Catch of the Day. He lives in a house overlooking Ruffey Lake Park, Doncaster, Vic. The park and his dogs figure much in his weekly 'verse snap' sent to the email list, PoetryEtc.



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Existing comments

Good to see you on the Street, Max, fiddling with words and projecting images.

Andrew Burke | 11 November 2008  

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