A COLLECTION OF POEMS

Written with love, loyalty and laughter.

These poems compliment my

IN SCHOOLS SEMINARS

and can be used by students for developing ideas, as a style manual, for printing and close study, and for demonstrating the day-to-day relevance of poetry.

CHILDHOOD TRAUMA:

Kapok Pillow

TEENAGE TRAUMA:

Changing Gears

CHALLENGING PARENTAL AUTHORITY:

Don’t Call Me Lad 

and

Don’t Look So Glum

FIRST LOVE EXPERIENCE:

Even Now

CONFRONTING A DEATH:

Like Now 

and

The Punter

ICE, THE DRUG RUINING LIVES:

True Love​

and
Monologue to a Wayward Niece

 

CHILDHOOD TRAUMA:

Kapok Pillow

Dad was one of the ‘Rats of Tobruk’

       & at home during my early

childhood

       we often had our own private

theatre of war


dad going awol from work

       drinking the day away . . .

to stagger home mid-afternoon

& throw missiles around

       barking orders like the

RSM he never was


if we were lucky he might just

fall into bed

       still in his y-fronts & singlet

& far too drunk to reach his socks

       he’d gradually fill the ashtray

on his bedside table 

       & if luck stayed with us –

he’d likely go off on the nod


i remember lifting a red brick

alongside the veranda 

one hot summer’s day after school

       & grabbing our front door key 

       

there was a strange smell when i

let myself in

       a smell i couldn’t recognise –

& i panicked

i tip-toed through the hallway slowly . . .

       checked the kitchen & the laundry

looking for mum       then the clothes line –

       but she didn’t seem to be

anywhere


i kept sniffing the air

       calling softly in my little boy’s voice

mum       mum       are you there


yet nothing came back but a smell

       which i could only sense as death


after weeks of dad’s drinking 

       & arguments

       & threats

       & broken crockery 

& living with the fear

       i inched my way along

the passage

       sniffing the acrid air . . .

& when i got to the toilet

       the door was flung wide open

& the white porcelain pan was

choked high above the wooden 

seat with a charry mess


it gave off the smell of death

& i looked around for an axe

       i thought it was my mother’s

torso

my tears & wails brought him

out of the bedroom

       unsteady in his grey socks

he slurred

       ya mum’s out shopping

don’t worry about that mess –

i went to sleep with a cigarette

       i stuffed me pillow down  

the toilet & pulled the chain

       it’s gone out now . . .

ya mother’ll be in soon

       go outside & get some fresh air . . .

go on


& he turned on his heels

       & staggered back to bed.  


Rats of Tobruk: The name given to the predominantly Australian soldiers of the garrison who held the Libyan port of Tobruk against the Afrika Corps, during the siege of Tobruk in WW2.


RSM: Regimental Sergeant Major 

 

TEENAGE TRAUMA:

Changing Gears

Even today       over forty years rush by

at the speed of sound 

each time i approach the intersection 

of Henley Beach & Tapleys Hill Road


i was stationary at the traffic lights

that particular summer’s morning

       sitting on my BSA Gold Flash


a screech of tyres alerted me

        & then the sounds of crushing

metal & shattered glass before

the hiss & rise of steam

       & though mid-morning on a

Saturday

       there came a stillness then 

that still spooks me even now


it was the front seat passenger from 

the car with the broken windscreen 

i saw first

       she looked close to full-term in her

flowery smock

       had both her hands cupped around 

her nose

       but even then i was thinking of her

unborn child . . . 

until she dropped her hands & i saw

her nose was spliced across the bridge

back to her cheeks

i’d like to say i was an urban hero

       tell you how i kicked the side-stand

out & ran to her aid

       but i was barely sixteen & the flow 

of blood terrified me 


all i could do was click the gear lever

one-up & let the clutch out quickly

       hell       i’ve seen plenty of blood

since then –

       much of it my own


i’ll never know if she & her unborn baby 

made it through safely 

       my only hope is they did . . .

& that she doesn’t remember that day

anywhere near as clearly  

        as i still do.

 

CHALLENGING PARENTAL AUTHORITY:

Don’t Call Me Lad

Don’t call me lad

                               dad

just don’t call me lad

got more hair on my balls dad

than y’v got

                      or had


i’m eighteen years old man

& i’ll sink or i’ll swim

just don’t call me lad 

                                      dad

my name is James

                                 or just Jim


& now that i vote dad

my party is green

get away with those flags dad

red & blue are both mean


y’ can roll up y’r sleeves dad

& slip on y’r tie

y’ can rant & lay guilt trips

but i’ll spit in y’r eye


yeah i grow some plants dad

but i’m keeping it cool

four’s not a plantation

i’m not such a fool


i just can’t find a job dad

year twelve was a waste

two friends have just died dad

too much of a taste


yeah i get the dole dad

though it don’t do much good

but don’t call me lad

                                      dad

i’d work if i could

now i’m mellowing out man

this home-grown is just wild

so don’t call me lad

                                    dad

i’m no longer a child


so don’t call me lad

                                    dad

i’m no longer a child.

 

Don’t Look So Glum

Don’t look so glum mum

    don’t look so glum

was that a finger

or a thumb mum

    don’t look so glum


i’ve been out having fun mum

    yeah out havin’ fun

don’t poke out your tongue mum

    don’t look so glum


my homework is done mum

    stop wavin’ y’r gun

all assignments are done mum

    don’t look so glum


you’re old & i’m young mum

    your best days are done

dad’s been gone f’r five years mum

    don’t look so glum


yeah i’ve tattooed my bum mum

    & put a stud through my tongue

it’s not the end of the world mum

    don’t look so glum


i don’t do hard drugs mum

    i go to parties for fun

so get off my case mum

    don’t look so glum

sure my skirt’s a bit short mum

       but you can’t see my bum

don’t nag me again mum

       i’m dressed to have fun


i practice safe sex mum

    i’m not particularly dumb

i get love & respect mum

    don’t look so glum


it’s a mad crazy world mum

    & i need to have fun

year twelve is a drag mum

    three months & it’s done

yeah    leave me alone mum

    three months & it’s done.

 

FIRST LOVE EXPERIENCE:

Even Now

It was 1961 & i was hovering

on thirteen years of age


i was less than a mile from the

starkness of my own street with  

its unmade road

       ambling along Galway Avenue –

mid-afternoon       

       the sun warming my back . . .

filtered light flecking the footpath

through the white cedars

      & young saplings reaching up 

from the wide median strip        

alive with the sounds of native birds


it was then i first saw Roslyn 


she was twelve & a half       wore pigtails

tied with blue ribbon 

       & a check dress that sat high 

above her knees


i don’t know how i found the courage

to chat her up

       i think i began by commenting

on how tiny her freckles were to mine

       but maybe i’m just imagining that . . .

hell       this was over fifty years ago

we were standing in dappled shade

       a stone’s throw from Mrs Day’s

kindergarten       so maybe i’d asked

if she’d gone there too 


after five minutes of small talk

       all the while both of us moving

from foot to foot

       i began to make a move . . .

& in hindsight       so did she


we took off hand-in-hand retracing

her steps 

       looking for somewhere private


i wanted to kiss her

       & i’d made my intentions clear


i hadn’t kissed a girl before


at the time i shared a bedroom

with two younger brothers

        & when i knew i was alone . . .

i’d practice on the dressing table

mirror       always careful to wipe away

any evidence


at the end of Collingrove Ave we came

across a red brick Baptist Church

       & on the side       a small porch – 

its white wooden doors       unlocked


once inside       my hands were full 

of her       & hers        with me –

& when our wet tongues touched

       i felt my knees begin to buckle 


maybe i became too big for my britches

       anyway –

i must have scared her because she 

pulled away & stuttered she had to go

       yet promised she’d meet me

the following day at four o’clock 


& even now       each time i pass that

red brick church         i keep an eye out

for her

       just as i did that following day


& even now        when i do think of her

       my breath quickens.

 

CONFRONTING DEATH:

Like Now

i.m. Heather l’Anson

29th December 1942 – 2nd February 2019



It’s just a few minutes past

11:00am on a Friday morning

       that time when people can

be seen making their way back

to work

       brushing cake crumbs 

from their suits & dresses

       catching their reflections

in shop windows & adjusting

their clothes & smiles

       buzzing on double expressos

soy lattes       Irish breakfast

       or perhaps the day’s conquests


it’s quiet in this room 

        but i can still hear traffic

rumbling along Semaphore Road


we are here to farewell one 

of our own

       we won’t see Heather’s image

reflected again

       not unless it’s in print . . .

she’s taken off 

       deserted us 

she’s gone to the other side

Heather was always a mystery

woman

       she’d sit at Semaphore cafes

in summer sun wearing dark glasses

reading the newspaper

       a white cane & her kelpie Zita

keeping her company

       but she was always taking in

more than just newsprint 


no-one she knew        would get past her


here he is she’d say

       gee i love those red Speedos

they’re just great

       but there were other times i reckon

Heather would have rather seen me

without them


like those Friday afternoons when she’d

tap her cane past Lucias at the Market

       she’d spot me & stop to say

gee i love those red shoes

       they are bloody beautiful 


then as quick as she arrived

       she’d be gone


like now.

 

The Punter

i.m. Mark Walter Goodfellow ‘Bluey’ died 21st March 2013


Blue was a White Ox man

       dead at sixty

jack dancer of the nanny goat

       none of us overly

surprised

       it could equally have been

cirrhosis of the liver

       & anyway –

an autopsy may have well

proven it was neck & neck


i remember the first time i saw

Blue have a whack

       Noel & Linda tying his arm off

in the shed at Copley Street

       they didn’t see me that night

in my rubber soled shoes

        insulated from that shit – 

& anyway 

        they were all too busy & self

absorbed

        & i slipped away into the 

darkness . . .

       silently       & unannounced


Blue slipped away into the darkness too

       thirty-five years later


though he’d slipped away on the 

gear a few times too

       he was in his twenties then –

but he woke up & gave the shit away


i can’t see the romance in it really

       it turns my guts to think of

the ulcer he had in the crook of his

left arm

       though he generally wore his

flanny shirts        sleeve down

       in those days


over his last six months

he still went up to the TAB 

as often as he could

       he knew the odds were 

stacked against him when they

finally got his diagnosis right

       he didn’t seem to care though –

always on the lookout for a long-shot

       he just kept on        with the punt.

 

ICE, THE DRUG RUINING LIVES:

True Love

I met him in the education block

at the youth training centre

       he had a mop of blond hair –

dull lifeless eyes      & lay slumped 

in his seat like a seal


i’ve got nuffin ta write about

he mumbled

write about what you’re in here for

i suggested

he rolled the puppy fat resting on his

shoulders & said

       it’s juss fer robbin a store

you’re kidding me son

       how old are you

i’m furteen

& how did all this go down

i wen inta a servo wif a pair

a sizzers & sed 

        givvus ya money

but th bloke       he juss laft at me

it made me angry so i fort  

i’d try en kill im

       i swung at his froat

but he moved back & i couldn’t

get me arm in far enuf

cos of th bars 

then i had to back off

       i had ta go fer th door


the coppers got me juss down

th road


i reely didn’t no wot i was doin

       i’d been on th ice en booze 

fer five days 


i juss reely wanna get out now

so i can get back on th ice

       i luv it. 

 

Monolgue to a Wayward Niece

Listen Krystal it might well be 28°C

& a lovely sunny day but your aunty

& i don’t want you sitting out here

on the front lawn with your home

detention bracelet wrapped around

your ankle. we’ve put up a two grand 

cash surety to keep you out of jail 

& we don’t want you messing up again.

you can sit out on the back lawn 

in the sun but we don’t want you out 

on display. if one of your old mates

wanders past & offers you a choof on

their ice pipe you’ll finish up falling

for the three card trick & failing

your next urine test. then your aunty

& i will have to forfeit our bail money.

so come around the back now. you

know what i mean. i don’t want any

arguments & i don’t want any dramatics.

now don’t go giving me that sullen face.

we’re trying to help you as best we can.

we both know that no-one else was

willing to put their hand up again. this

is ya last chance. ya do understand that

       don’t ya?

 

LIKE MORE POEMS?

You can view a bonus collection of poems here.

 

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+61407972184

GPO Box  1740 ADELAIDE  SA  5001

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