Greg McLaren is a Sydney poet and critic. His books are Everything falls in (Vagabond, 2000), Darkness disguised (Sidewalk, 2002) and The Kurri Kurri Book of the Dead (Puncher & Wattmann, 2007). Greg is presently co-editing a collection of essays on Australian poetry, and is poetry editor at Puncher & Wattmann.
On the last day
I leave work hours early
and bus in to meet you by the quay,
you nearly drunk
an hour before you reach the ferry
Past the terror-proof windows
everything is busy-ness,
flight preparations are tinted
a pale yellow that in some light
might seem orange
I wander through the fluorescent mall
of the airport, wait thirty minutes
for a train and dawdle
in the bookshop underground
until a friend rings my mobile
At cruising altitude
you’re sheeting across the south east
of the continent just short
of the speed of sound
My bus slopes back up Parramatta Road
Your mother the commercial artist
greets you past the gates
with something between coldness
and expectation, and with news
of her latest exploits on e-bay
Somewhere, I’m not sure,
I’ve kept the train ticket,
that emblem of love,
its coded magnetic strip past expiry,
peeling from the backing like a mirror
With a face like a Castlecrag property deed,
and the spruiker voice you got from your brother,
you interrogate clients and staff alike:
Do you like the new fit-out?, and What
do you think of the chandelier? As if you had
a North Shore mortgage on taste, judgement
or – get this – delicate tact. After the half-
a-mill reno: the cut-back in casuals’ hours.
After the million dollar fit-out in Melbourne:
the nervous house-sale, the knuckle-size mention
in the weekend rag, and, always, the lack even of an
ironic self-awareness. The mission statement is riddled
with typos, and reads like a hippy business plan.
You want to target “the high-end literary market,
or even just general readers”, and to hose them
with “Paris Café Jazz”, that iconic genre. You hire doctors
and pay them peanuts: we fart in your car.
The in-store music? A burnt CD you paid money for,
and could never sell: Roberta Flack, singing “The first time
ever I saw your face”, followed by James Reyne, “Fall of Rome”.
Seen from the car, a blurred barcode
of trees against the background of the lake
The lake is a fuzz of smoke. The heavy clang
of cicadas engulfs us, crashing through
the bush and cramming the thin black road
with noise. The car’s metal body keeps out
nothing; heat and noise seep and drip like sweat
on cracked vinyl. Our parents are two heads
bobbing, neither wanting this exchange
of one place for another. They become
bored children again, visiting her mother.
The grey-green racket rolls, sea-sick
in waves as we slide up and down hills.
I think for a moment I ought to be in it.