The Alexandria Tea Rooms – Ballarat

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“… all the buildings Forster mentions here remain, but as mementos of a past design.” — HAAG

At the end of wars
the generation we all regret, the
fiercely burnt
and drowned, and
the divided,
Sing,
and shuffle forward in lines
bandaged across a
desert sky,
And our imaginations, lost to
early film,
find purpose
in the scraps
of isolated deaths,
theme music, the cutaway
Spitfires.
In Lydiard Street,
afterwards,
the steel-helmeted
choir
(a battalion that sang in dunes before
a mute newsreel camera)
is lost again
in scratched footage
of light traffic and
pavement jostle.

The winter matinee crowd moves toward verandahs.
Rain tumbles the glass of an old electric tram.
A high window of the Alexandria Tea Rooms
becomes a mirror
and
tricks of light
set replays
of generations
along wet brass
to the gardens, rotundas,
a statue of Burns,
and
this dead fountain stop
at Sturt Street
for perished Bourke
in waterless
tiered inland riverbanks
— a succoured Wills …
and
in a smell of sand-brakes,
asphalt, sparks and
rain,
The film’s slow anthem
sounds again,
and takes the city as it falls
in echoes
at the end of the day
in hollow streets
and these square
saved
Victorian
facades.

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