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Supermarket and cemetery conversation

Saturday Morning

Footy talkback.
Interviews with local players
their names linked to memorable games,
who their father played for.
Their brief wisdoms, more potent than sound bites,
are the closest we get to God on Saturday morning,

where my father eats All-Bran with prunes,
my mother fusses around making tea
almost dancing to the rhythms of the callers’ voices,
Some of who are women and like her
fanatical, reverent and well-informed. Footy is religion
in a house where the radio is in the shape of a football.

Saturday morning, always loaded with expectation – 
peeling back caked mud from my footy boots on the back doorstep,
my brothers handballing to each other in the kitchen,
jumpers on the backs of chairs, footy socks
that hadn’t been washed since training.
Each of us measuring the world by last weekend’s scores.
A kind of muddy folklore
like my mother’s posters of Pat Rafter still stuck on the laundry door.
After all these years, the commentators’ voices
haven’t changed, haven’t strayed
from the common language of screamers, big man advantage,
of kicking into the breeze –  words without the baggage
of Federal government initiatives.

My parents read and munch quietly
the radio keeping them in the moment.
Noting news of another funeral to attend,
hands blindly reaching for sugar, toast,
passing the milk jug – their act of communion,
until my mother carries the radio into the bathroom.
My father and I read on
expecting the other to say something.

Conversation at a cemetery

A small rise overlooking the town
and further off, the mountain
that hovers into view. Up the back
in a dry spot shadowed by a gum tree
is where my parents will rest. This is the place,
he says, near the gravestones of friends – 
farmers who died too early,
farm accidents that claimed children,
funerals he was too busy to attend.
Now he has the time to organise his own attendance.
Five years before he wouldn’t have stopped
to consider the cracked clay on this rise.
It was simply a place to be passed each day
on his way to the farm. Reading the mossy dates,
old names that have come back into fashion,
some part of him has opened up, allowed him
to accept the death I am fighting against.
Here, people either died young or lingered,
their dreams and worries becoming our history.
He likes to be around young people
who talk of doing things, who are not sick,
who don’t know of another person quietly dying
in a country street. He is proud of the money spent
on an ashphalt car park, a new sign hammered into gravel.
The place has got a bit of life about it.
We pause at the headstone of a recent death.
Flowers on polished granite, a district’s grief
resting with the dates. The simple finality
of my father’s words – 
this is the place I will be buried.


At 3pm, women in ugg boots stride purposefully 
in. A fight breaks out near the automatic doors.

Older women loiter by their Commodores,
sons and daughters on edge: track-suited

piercings, bubby-fat paunches, litre bottles of Coke
swinging. Scowls, nervous glances, the man

who was picked stands alone, smoking.
An elderly busker strums and wails to Johnny Cash.

The trolley collector has a loud voice, possibly
a handicap. I’ve seen him with his elderly mother

following her like a puppy as she works down a list.
He murmurs, smiles, shouts at co-workers,

who think he just wants to be recognised.
My daughter can’t cope unless she prowls the aisles

with a bacon and cheese roll. Only the brave
venture forth the day before public holidays.

At the IGA, the woman at the check-out
peppers her speech with Darl. Her friendliness,

the way she packs my plastic bags,
greets me two days later – a connection

Facebook can’t provide;
the smirk that follows mutual acceptance

of weather, gravel roads, our lot in life – 
hunting for sesame seeds, swearing we’ve seen

the photo of the man on the notice board
management would like to talk to.

Brendan RyanBrendan Ryan's lives at Portarlington, Victoria, and teaches at a secondary college in Geelong. He has had three collections of poetry published: Why I am Not a Farmer (2000), A Paddock In His Head (2007), shortlisted for the 2008 ACT Poetry Prize, and A Tight Circle (Whitmore Press, 2008).

Topic tags: new australian poems, football, saturday morning, cemetery, supermarket, facebook, iga, ugg boots



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