Guttered brotherhood

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Meeting my analyst
back then
when we were new to each other
there was something
beyond coal-black hair
long legs and ripe red lips
that caused men to hesitate
as if anticipating questions
or perhaps sensing
even without interrogation
you'd hear sighs
from creatures cobwebbed
in rooms long unvisited
curtains drawn
intricate locks corroded
keys lost
or artfully concealed

and now
though you might be smothered
in a shapeless tracksuit
still men calculate if to speak
and risk exposing something
that breathes in the dark
fearful what it may say
if coaxed stumbling
sun-blind into daylight
and dignified with a name

so they hesitate
maybe desiring to be known
though not quite so well
in truth
not wanting to be me

Waiting for the trolley
That ridiculous white cotton gown
supposed to tie at the back
but three sizes too big,
so you wrap yourself like a parcel
and fasten the tapes at the front,
then we wait for the rattle and squish,
the song of the trolley that bears you
away to a theatre without entertainment,
to be lifted carefully onto a steel table,
drugged senseless and stripped
naked for the attentions of masked strangers,
keen knives poised in gloved fingers,
while I wait alone in this bare room
reading words I won't remember,
staring from high windows at rectangles
of roofs, grey asphalt moats swarming
with cars and trams and scurrying dots,
while I try to still my leaping thoughts
and pine to hear that trolley's song
above this eager pounding heart.

A nuisance
Our town nuisance, eyes bulging
from a hollowed head,
trousers like tattered flags
half-mast on broomstick legs,
a pest to the tourists
when he tells them where to go.
Linger, and he'll bot your small change
or cigarettes. Café owners claim
he scares away their dollars.

Vestrymen want him banned
for bellowing directly to God,
suddenly, violently, frightening
kneelers at earnest supplications.
He's fond of directing traffic
in the main street —
a handy arrest for the police
when their stats are down.

You can find him most evenings
on a bench outside the law courts,
puffing on a ragged cigarette
stuffed not solely with tobacco,
rolled so loosely in paper so flimsy
it showers sparks like a roman candle,
illuminating him while we rush past
keeping to the shadows, hoping
no ember of guttered brotherhood
rekindles with his sputtered light.

Electric rider
Borsari's Corner, Carlton, Victoria

On the chamfered wall above his old bike shop
he flickers to light at sunset, pedalling
towards Lygon Street, head down, tail up,
trailing coloured ribbons of neon
and a banner of bright blinking words:
Nino Borsari Ex-Olympic Champion;
a modest enough title for a gold medallist,
as if he'd won his title in LA in '32
and surrendered it to Berlin four years later.
Not for him Olympian; immortality too steep
a climb for this electric rider, spinning out
of memory, freewheeling into myth,
when the gods ruled on Mount Olympus,
and only heroes rode upon Elysium's fields.


B. N. OakmanB N Oakman's poetry has been published in literary journals, magazines and newspapers in Australia, the UK and US. He was awarded a grant by the Literature Board of The Australia Council for 2009. A chapbook, Chalk Dust: Poems from the Social Domain (Mark Time Books), was recently published and a full-length collection of his poetry, In Defence of Hawaiian Shirts, will be published by Interactive Press in 2010.


Topic tags: B. N. Oakman, meeting my analyst, waiting for the trolley, a nuisance, electric rider, Nino Borsari



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Existing comments

What lively, swiftly and surely flowing verse! Effortlessly hides the crafting that must have gone into it .More!
Joe Castley | 08 December 2009


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