Two men marooned in a cab

After rain
Rain tonight —
forgotten accompaniment
oiled in its livery,
never maxim
but languid advice,
portent of seasons

or dank separation,
iridescence of stone
after sleeplessness.

At my parents' home,
stripping wallpaper in my old bedroom
(the fake leopard skin
I thought so sophisticated)
I sponge countless bloodstains
where my grandmother,
a later, surprisingly agile guest,
lay in bed swatting mosquitoes,
earplugged to her midnight Tartuffe.

Late morning, traffic foul.
Two men marooned in a cab,
late for a meeting,
late for a volley of meetings.                   
Not much conversation.
Same haircut, suits —
even boots, a rustic touch.
Each using his own phone,
gesturing at the driver's bored head.
It's all about margins
one snaps over the traffic.           
Worried looks. Meeting targets.
Living up to expectations,
mission statements.
The older man is lethal.
I can make things hard for you, 
much harder than you can for me.

Something vaguely hysterical
in his voice.
            Like death?

The Good Iago
Finally, if you please
(no protests now, no sophistries),
time to let it all slip away,
time to absolve old menace
as a robe is unpeeled
from shoulders of a comeliness
and marmoreal effect.

Noiseless and permissive surrender
barely noticed in the boudoir
with its flagrance of roses
and shabby chinoiserie.

Belated let it fall,
diaphanous and beyond provocation.
It has its own cramped life now,
its own sorry principle —
no longer part of you,
the outcast in the moral wardrobe.

Catch yourself — yes, catch yourself
(ever the great self-picturer)
kneeling at her feet
amid the rowdies and magnificoes,
beguiled by wafts of normalcy,
enslaved to nuance.

Peter RosePeter Rose is a poet, memoirist and novelist as well as being the editor of the Australian Book Review and the former publisher of Oxford University Press, Melbourne.

Topic tags: new australian poems, Peter Rose



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