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Fluttering locusts stripping the paddocks bare

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Locust Years

Everywhere I step there are locusts
flittering over squashed thistles,
a scraggy laneway.

Their flickering rises to a crescendo
unsettling, like a threat the ground
moves beneath me.

The longer I walk the paddocks
the more I become a part of them.
Miles from anywhere yet closer to memory

the ditch where our rubbish tip used to be
a bush wind scuttling leaves
like a stranger visiting to say the rosary

the rhythms of Hail Mary’s
ascending across a kitchen floor
the muttering of intentions

before she leaves for another house call.
Her prayers for the departed hanging in the air
fluttering locusts stripping the paddocks bare.



He was a small man who holidayed in Manila.

Each night he unlocked his door to quiet fury.

He ran the 100 metres in record time.

Hot water soothed his knuckles in the dairy.

In the grand final photos
he is the one falling backwards, stubby in hand.

He was a lover to routine
cigarettes, the same faded jeans.

He had a hard time keeping a girlfriend.

Sometimes I would catch him, alone,
necking a bottle on his verandah.

He understood the look of a cow
yet a swish of a tail and he moved into town.

A bachelor town where the churches had been sold
and an avenue of cypress trees offered respite from the glare.

They say an early death takes the focus from your self.

Back Streets

Not the zoned stares of toll ways, freeway art and variable speed limits.
Not the avenues of discount warehouses, superstores and car yards
but the back street short cuts between suburbs,

where children kick footballs between approaching cars
and decorate the road with hop-scotch squares on Sunday afternoons,
where architecture reflects a clash of cultures, new generations

stringing prayer flags across verandahs, smoking on front door steps
mesmerized by pigeons on antennas, neighbours fighting for car spaces,
where the idea of home becomes the graffiti on a corrugated iron wall

the Gipps street dog leg that takes you past Nike and The Salvos
into the clutter of Richmond, the High Rises, tyres slipping on the tram tracks
in the eternal quest to avoid Punt Road traffic: a daily Purgatory

your fantasies idling through a gridlock –
the sound of tyres on bluestone cobbles
or the scrape of a number plate in the gutter

as you nose-dive into an alley between backyards,
searching for an escape from one way streets that take you closer
to junk mail in letter boxes,

an empty stubbie outside the stairwell to a block of flats.
The suburban street doesn’t need to flood
or be pummelled by road trains to be memorable.

A distinctive house on a corner, a moment’s drift at the lights,
the pilgrimage of men to the shop for the Sunday papers
will keep returning years later.



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Existing comments

Each poem speaks loudly of character and experience, seems effortless in its sharing giving it powerful accessability. Thank you.

I also enjoyed each of your poems which recently appeared in 'Cordite's Experience Issue'.

I expect nothing less when reading a poet promoted by the generous Ron Pretty.

Frances Macaulay Forde | 28 May 2008  

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