A Brisbane Sunday History


Sudden Death In Colours

The Sunday my father mowed his forehead
into the grey iron rib of the Hill’s Hoist,
the sky was a Brisbane Reckitt’s blue
white boilers of cumulus building,
the grass a thick, rocketing green
spotted with yellow dog circles.

Back and forth he lunged with the push mower.
I liked to lie and watch his bare feet
and prehensile toes grabbing nearer.

When suddenly, the regular rhythm stopped.
Dad was felled, swearing, coated with blood.
I thought I saw his right eye staring
from the hoist’s spoke.

My mother rushed up, arms flapping in aversion
a portent of disaster in her red tent dress,
big white buttons at the shoulder.
‘Oh, darl what did you do to yourself?’ she yelled
leaning closer, getting bolder.

Dad lay like a praying mantis in his khaki shorts.
Sunlight caught his legs and glinted in the golden hairs.
‘Bloody hell, Jean.’ He rolled over and over.
‘I’ve killed myself,’ he said.
His left eye blazed sulphurous as a goat’s.
‘But I can’t see to tell.’

My Eagle Junction Aunt

My Eagle Junction aunt in her proper garden,
mottled, in a sundress with wide straps.
She tended cement edgings, short neat grass
and a frangipani that emitted clouds of scent.

The wide street ran solemn, cruising cars
and grey-eyed, stooping Uncle Sid,
always just disappearing
to go to see a man about a horse.

One time I lived with aunt and Uncle Sid.
On Sunday mornings he made omelette.
I watched from the maid’s room bed
the round, five foot, green metal
rotating Lazy Susan in the kitchen
with black stencilled names of SUGAR, MUSTARD, SALT.

Uncle Sid was famous for his Ford with tinted windows
his share portfolio, his racing bets.
Aunt was famous for having Uncle Sid.
I recall them in a profound suburban summer silence
a world of breathless undirected force.
Three noises carry with them:
the steady head noise of my blood
the nasal, high-pitched drone of race results
the word ‘Darl’ said plaintively.

An engine hammered on until
life for them was nearly over,
then it was.
They lob into family history with a thud.

Cutting The Edges

A new-hatched Sunday, early,
the neighbours still cocooned in chenille quilts.
Their striped pyjamas sheathe male and female
limbs lying parallel.
Barefoot in the wet grass I jump
into the bright, soft, blue expectant morning
like drifting in a naked balloon
bumping and shifting.

A clear, safe sphere.
Out on the edge a few silvereyes
from other suburbs, with nihilistic stares
but nothing more here within my concave
imaginary walls, grass felted, sealed by sky.

Succulents, gerberas, petunias with twirled hems
grafted roses, their big thorns shining
red like bloodied dogs’ teeth.
Cutting the edges, the shears make
a satisfactory, isolated clip, clip.
Couch runners disappear behind plant stems
like little backbones.

Our house stands square.
Its stucco walls rear.
The ridged cement driveway roars
to the garage doors.
All garden edges are brick.
My shears clip in a line, north, south
cutting the grass’s hair.
At the brick letterbox with its green metal door
I unlatch — three dead snails spewing foam,
a yellowed Road Ahead.

Now, next door a woman slushes out in slippers
steel curlers springing in her hair.
Clutching a house coat
she peers under her stair.
She will not see me in my hollow world.
She calls up, ‘No, nothing here.’
Across the road a man says firmly
‘No, dear, it’s not there.’
Front doors bang shut.
Floating again, I watch an Alsatian brush past
two Sunday papers in its mouth.

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