Posted in Lies

Sojourn

Memory alone has an address.
Letters and a photograph
refugees
still waiting in a carton camp
at Mum and Dad’s, a friend’s, a garage somewhere
relics
of when love auditioned
and nearly did.

The rhythms of farewell
tangible, all these years later
youth hostel Puritanism
rigid separation of sexes
to prevent sex
capacity rooms moat boldness
crowding, a trustworthy chaperone.

A slow march through the city in creeping winter
before dawn Check-in to instant summer.
Dinner
no starter or sweet
we told the waitress
time was urgent
a lie to hide poverty.

Paper cups in a suburban park
wine from a brown paper bag
darkness.
Tears
only hers
unmanly is confused with manhood.

Quiet post-midnight hours cramped on a couch
before returning to separate rooms.
In the unjudging dark both are brave
laughter elbows aside tenderness.

Bruised sky of morning regret
lonely walk back to what was
imagination replays intense whispers of reunion.
I never saw her again.

For the story behind a story click Backstage

Posted in Lies

Coming Soon. Lies has one more post – then a new volume : ANTARCTICA.

Antarctica. Introduction. When asked his biggest mistake in life, Mick Taylor replied, ” joining The Rolling Stones and leaving The Rolling Stones.” If asked the same question I would reply,” going to Antarctica and leaving Antarctica.”

Antarctica: Scott dying thwarted, devastated, malnourished and revered. Shackleton single-handedly challenging the Southern Ocean to return – no lives lost. Amundsen, ruthlessly meticulous, savagely metronomic, dogs, men, research, all sacrificed to ambition and priority. Sir Edmund Hillary giving a finger to the English punkah wallahs and racing to the South Pole on farm tractors.

For seven years, from the mid 1980’s until the early 90’s, I worked in Antarctica. McMurdo Station wasn’t heroic, or glorious, or chivalrous, it was ugly, clumsy, profligate and frequently hilarious, often without intending to be. The ruling body, comprised almost entirely of middle-aged, middle-class, white men, took themselves and the empirical, simplistic science they were charged with overseeing, far too seriously. The result was Kremlin like rules and Gdansk shipyard efficiency.

Of those who returned year after year, the majority were refugees from a world which found them ill suited, and they ill fitting : erratic, temperamental, and vice ridden; McMurdo was the, fried food scented, foul mouthed, two days past a shower, boarding house of downsized ambitions and easy money they found home. A home stumbled into the way many fall into marriage, a union briefly euphoric then glum, brittle, self possessed, wistful of separation but finding apathy comfortable, convenient and by default, preferable.

This is the Antarctica I saw working in a kitchen that fed 1200 people in summer, and 200 in winter.   It’s what I observed, preparing food, serving meals, wiping tables, mopping floors, cleaning up after Thanksgiving and Christmas banquets. It’s not how Antarctica is normally betrayed or imagined. It’s not completely truthful either – some of what occurred is so bizarre as to be unbelievable – and in the interests of credibility has been omitted. This is one person’s story.   It’s not a film – it’s a series of still photographs. Be warned there may be a sequel.

The first three posts are scene setting. Because we were all very young – names have been changed – youth provides both an excuse and explanation for what later may cause cringe. Anyone who was there will recognise these obvious contrivances.

Posted in Lies

Close To Home

They lived in the house one north of our grandfather
there never was a grandmother
she died before she was
giving birth to our favourite uncle.
Without a nana or grandma
it was always just Grandad’s place
and the neighbours – The Bells – for decades.

A nearly suburb. No railway cottages or rentals.
Bay villas and big yards. No second stories or serving staff
tennis at the public courts.
People stayed then, putting down roots
transplanted only by death.

Merle, short for Merlin perhaps
children never pondered. To us he was Mr Bell.
Sociology as ancestor. Our parents spoke his given name
Mrs Bell was only ever that
belonging to a now extinct group
women severed from their first name by marriage.

Grandad was proud to live alongside an educated man – a teacher
after the war
the Korean conflict brought prosperity.
A big town grew to a small city
and the neighbour to principal of a brand new junior high.

The new school surfed the wave of baby boom fecundity
respect and enrolments grew
the principal became president of the local racing club
an honour
and chance to meet royalty and prime ministers.

New Zealand didn’t smoke or inhale in the swinging 60’s
the 50’s passed into the 70’s and Grandad from this world.
Clear sky lightning. An arrest
president of the racing club for theft of takings.
Time lapse crimes
a decade
probably longer
trust didn’t really know – perhaps from the very beginning.

Plea bargain denies schadenfreude of courtroom stocks
brief sensational
swaps sins for silence
I giggled like the schoolboy I was
at a teacher apprehended for misbehaviour.

Now I wonder
how did he feel
at PTA nights
at parent teacher evenings
at last warning summits.
And prize giving
handing out awards for application, diligence, and integrity.

For the story behind a story click Backstage