The Cops Call Him Charlie
An olive grove's heavy greenness
remains his only country & flag.
Without family or friends, fifty
years after the woman on the wharf
waved to him & the roots of acacia
embraced her, this old greek's
moored in the Tropic of Capricorn.
Digging in a sandpile street workers
left for Monday morning,
he glances at the faces of women
trying to dodge confusion & wet cement.
They spin away from the weight of his eyes
pulling them into his soft torture.
His dirty clothes & grimy hands
flag down three petty officials
who write in their notebooks
& leave him talking to a lamppost.
posed cockily on an orange beanie,
speaking to someone in a different world.
He stands in the middle of the street,
leaning on a shovel, surveying the scene
like a foreman, as cars screech & burn
rubber around him. I walk away, afraid,
wondering if we suffer the same illness:
Seeing without having to see.
protection of Movable Cultural Heritage
Time-polished skulls of Yagan & Pemulwy
sit in a glass cage wired to a burglar alarm
in Britain, but the jaws of these two
resistance leaders haven't been broken
into a lasting grin for the Empire.
Under fluorescent lamps they are crystal balls
into which one can gaze & see the past.
With eyes reflected into empty sockets
through the glass, I read repeatedly
an upside down newspaper
headlining Klaus Barbie & Karl Linnas
& Bernhard Goetz. The skulls sit
like wax moulds for Fear & Anger-
beheaded body-songs lament &
recall how mindy grass once sang to feet.
Now, staring from their display case,
they still govern a few broken hearts
wandering across the Nullarbor Plain.
Killed fighting for love of birthplace
under a sky ablaze with flying foxes
& shiny crows, they remember the weight
of chains inherited from the fathers
of bushrangers, how hatred runs into
the soul like red veins in the eye
or thin copper threads through money.
February in Sydney
Dexter Gordon's tenor sax
plays ''April in Paris"
inside my head all the way back
on the bus from Double Bay.
Round Midnight, the '50's,
cool cobblestone streets
resound footsteps of Bebop
musicians with whiskey-laced voices
from a boundless dream in French.
Bud, Prez, Webster & The Hawk,
their names run together
like mellifluous riffs.
Painful gods jive talk through
bloodstained reeds & shiny brass
where music is an anesthetic.
Unreadable faces from the human void
float like torn pages across the bus
windows. An old anger drips into my throat,
& I try thinking something good,
letting the precious bad
settle to the salty bottom.
Another scene keeps repeating itself:
I emerge from the dark theatre,
passing a woman who grabs her red purse
& hugs it to her like a heart attack.
Tremolo. Dexter comes back to rest
behind my eyelids. A loneliness
lingers like a silver needle
under my black skin,
as I try to feel how it is
to scream for help through a horn.