Room for Regret

Plastic flowers
on a mantelpiece
with ivory elephants
where a clock chimed
each quarter hour
of a best forgotten time
where ageing memories
of children playing
are revived
in fading pictures
on an angry wall
boxed in by voices
that echo inside
the mausoleum of the mind
while yesterday lingers
like an unwelcome guest
where only
the plastic flowers are fresh.

Silhouettes of Severed Heads

There were few jobs
after I graduated
but after applying
I was accepted
as a temporary art teacher
and sent by train
to a technical school
in the countryside.

It was bureaucratic brick
with a bitumen yard
flanked by classrooms
and a staffroom
occupied by strangers
including me
a misfit
sipping a cup of tea.

I had to teach
miniature men
their features blurred now
by the passing years
to a timetable
of supervised sport
free drawing
and clay modelling.

I shared room for a time
at a local hotel
with Bill
who taught maths
then flew to Melbourne
to pick up a car
and rented rooms
in a private home.

Early one morning
while intoxicated
I was threatened by a lout
who kept insisting
I take off my coat and fight
which I did
outraging my landlady
who asked me to leave.

I moved in with Bernie
an alcoholic
partied with Laurie
my department head
who unknown to me then
was unhappily married
to Shirl
when she sat on my knee.

After the Melbourne Olympics
in ’56
I rented a shack
on a turkey farm
swam naked in the river
on hot summer nights
and resigned
leaving only memories behind.

Programmed

The mind
aged around twenty-three
is purportedly free
and qualified to choose
a fulfilling career
by successfully applying
for a job
as a wage earner
to commute
and predictably marry
arrange a loan for a home
routinely raise a family
responsibly, respectably
patriotically
every dogmatic, manipulated day.

The Morning Sting

One dull summer Sunday morning
I went swimming in the bay
on my back out to sea
gazing upwards at shredded clouds
like cotton wool
broken by jagged rents
peeping through
of white, brilliant sunlight.

I passed a yellow buoy
bumped into something lumpy
just beneath the surface
changed course
and began swimming back to shore
in a choppy swell
when stung
by a giant jelly-fish.

Contented Breezes

A glorious summer dawning
over the awakening bay
serene blue wavelets
rolling, foaming
a canoe slides by
speeding launches
head out to sea
the sky peers down
through wispy clouds
wafted by a caressing breeze
a tanned lady
strides resolutely by
her long dark hair flying
behind a determined face
preceded by a Labrador
regally trotting
swooping gulls excitedly scream
between sea and sky.

An Autumn Interlude

Basking in the afternoon sun
glittering through a gap
between languid clouds
drifting in a solemn sky
above
some neglected pelargoniums
flowering somehow
bordered by a patch of grass
where Turtle Doves
industriously flutter
peck then begin to fade
as my eyelids droop
losing focus
until revived
by the coolness
of a passing breeze.