25 Alan Wearne

Contact: writers and Estate Executors who wish to delete material, or who instead wish to give permission to reprint work in full, rather than truncated to 8 lines, as used occasionally herein to avoid the complex labyrinth of copyright, may contact me easily by phone, mail or email here.

[The New Australian Poetry, page 282]

Alan Wearne


Say I awoke in time
to the end of the claret
at eight on my tongue.

Stood next to a window
with some passionless song

flung on the sheets,
a wry chill covering me
for a secret…


Or say I awoke,
in unknowing weeks,
with a nation told (during sleep,)

of the prefix and numbers.
The ritual waxy feeling.

Cashiers, attendants — stroking,
thumbing the useless paper,


[The New Australian Poetry, page 283]

Alan Wearne

my associates spread through the country.


… A secret. To sleep from the secret!
of our greed’s square root —
(reduced only to:)

Small goods — smallgoods,
paint, sandals, maybe a song.

Now I must shiver to some rest,
the ink and the narrow corner press,
ruling this room’s convenient conscience.



Alone, and it is a terror
to have watched light advance
the window ledge as
no further,
                    my eyes blink,
snap-on with the day’s plan.


Who’ll blame the sun
as it moved into the room?
And will it have rained by this dawn’s even,
I, forced to bring the trade-mark mac
out of its closet?

Then, shall who-it-was doze
— scared though sedated?


(Next week:
                       page 6 of the local press,
such light and advancement!


[The New Australian Poetry, page 284]

Alan Wearne

                            printed next to
Dog of the week!) But


O anychild, my future — seen, known, fulfilled,
        whoever mine is, have already
arisen now:
soon, small and dark
        over the monkey-bars…


I am my double.
Having gone into the cage,
they call me a clown as
I rise to draw a face in the dust.

Appointed to hover,
the cage rustling, I wrote:
with what luck can I form
the building’s straight edge.

An on sale clown, with myself
from the streets’ window
I climb,
over the lovers, lying in parks,

away from my wiping right hand
their appointments are made
below a guardian,
swaying, mad, and almost ignored.

Look now where I am!
How employment is relieved only by
my own late graffiti.


[The New Australian Poetry, page 285]

Alan Wearne

And yet, beyond that lusty reflected grin,
lovers sway with me,
unwittingly into the windows.


        but listen,
there is moreover, experience and example:
in his sleepout J.M. Hooke mentions the words
        ‘computer’ and ‘motel’;
or, is she married? (left hand fool;) and
to find out the origins of the surname
        Delahunty — marvellous!
There’s so much to be done in Melb.
— Crossing Spring from Carpentaria Place,
        climbing Collins
in a morning fog, marking the spires of
Scots and The Independent, to pause at Gibbys,
        Vienna 25c.

Tell me the season is yes, another game, an
other game. Is radio, ole-time with
        Dancing in the Dark,
its author, anonymous now, who’d wish to
say, say: enjoy your Octobers in these,
        our golden-times…
(it need not be computer and motel, e.g.
he worked on the computer / they stayed at a motel.)
        But it’s still to be done;


School, out, the matriculants
saunter off at Richmond;
plotted sideburns, chappy nicknames,
the leaders speak with passion, privilege.
(Dating a sister-school to Ormond Hall


[The New Australian Poetry, page 286]

Alan Wearne

an arrogance, preferred: contained, rehearsed
from older friends.
See how the Friday stud, on closing
departs, flesh at their arm!)

To relax,
they’re buying or swapping glossies,
from the falsetto sixties, when yearning
became a fashion for bay-bee harmonics.
Today stands are thick with back issues of
CUTE: What to eat in Baltimore/
Mara, B.A. our ten-syllable nymph.

      from OUT HERE

      6 Out There

(Lorraine McNab, Marian’s youngest sister, a radical nurse)

Darling, the great McNab reception
has stopped. There was no marriage,
only a wedding which lapsed
into three children; and Marian’s
one good thing arrives is over.

‘Blowin’ my millions!’ puffed out
the boom-time father of
I and the bride. ‘There’s three to go!’
Now he unbends each weekend,
pale and gutty, with neat
imported whiskey.
If I arrive he calls me ‘Commo Daughter’,
asks after ‘yer revolution’,
he’s part of it, wouldn’t guess,
but listens to what etc, I’m saying,
smiles, disagrees and forgets it.

Out where I rarely attend,
(households clothed in Butterick designs,


[The New Australian Poetry, page 287]

Alan Wearne

as we were), my concerns would never, never
be welcome: my concepts, our concepts:
out there Marian and Russell Viney
are splitting, and nephew Brett has made
one mad grand design and gesture:
blood on the staff-room floor,
frankly delightful, but for the act.

I’ve no memories, just memory.
Can you still hear Holiday for Strings,
April in Portugal? If so,
I’m with mother, plotting our styles
and dress sense, copies of Australian Bride,
The English Bride, Bride America,
the radio’s Lunching and Listening to
Moulin Rouge, Limelight, at a kid sisters’
fitting session. (School’s nearly over,
Thursday and Friday disposed, off.)

I was the tomboy
junior bridesmaid, my love: the idea
of Bombe Alaska, my bane:
one of the younger Viney guests
chasing me, mad about kissin’.
But a kid controls a strange
differing past. Now this wedding
wasn’t exactly Marian’s Russell’s
this, with its Bombe Alaska, kissin’.
No doubt Marian: fool sister fool spouse,
gazed as a cow into Russell
promising; her life’s great happy day
at twenty, with trappings though,
to be Mrs Viney out there in
Horses Arse country, hoo-ray.

After their holiday: the visiting
 — she took Jean and Marlene
into a room, Marl giggled me aside
 — too young; all my thinking: of
an adventure, then this post-mortem


[The New Australian Poetry, page 288]

Alan Wearne

laid, unforgettable cheap,
her private life into a minor room
as a twelve-year old, leant against the door,
sobbed, as it was vague sinister silly.
O why should I choose, ear-mark,
this for reference, re-reference?
Had I an analyst, the need for one,
he’d she’d total the event and yes!
Well she bought me a ‘snow storm’,
it dropped and cracked in a week.

Am never terrified now and that’s
‘liberation’, horrifying word, over-used
and abused. Some Saturday morning
tramp round the market and centres
bellowing ‘our bodies’, is a sign, sure,
though not one of utility, commitment.
And yes I’m doing something:
to work is to initiate to be (if you wish)
Radical; and slogans maybe brash cliquey.

‘Present your views by all means,
present your views to the
market place of the world.’ Thus father.
He treated the youngest the favourite
to matinees, would take me out
and watch some loud-mouth marine
take Iwo Jima like it was Real Estate
 — action’s what he wanted, gave;
I presume, an example:

The clinic is powerful, has
a half-way home to liaise with,
 — my kin, imagine throwing sister
in with working wives (as she…)
well, thrown out by wallopings, not playboys,
who, in any event scream fuck-off
and leave. Perhaps out there,
it is the Viney rule, with those
poor men, deluded into payments, chicks…


[The New Australian Poetry, page 289]

Alan Wearne

For there has to be concern for Marian,
for my object-addicted, middle-ground,
mothering big sister. Let’s not acting
but to act, for it’s our age,
our life and times, and they’re out,
smarmers with their wives and lurvers
… should always be …
hey, little girl, do you still
run to his arms and seek
as these songs? Marian you object,
they’re telling you, telling
he’s almost there: sister that’s shit!

Mrs Russell Viney nee McNab!
McNab! To have our parents’ name
is to have a man’s name,
strange really. We lack
continuity, unless like Marian
we latch and start off
at twenty with
further letters of the alphabet. But,
McNab, she’d be proud of that,
proud of father, out
hoarding prices for un-sewered,
un-paved un- forget it;
I keep the name, shall,
not as the irony, which I
alone appreciate, rather as
reminder. He’s here, all
his representation, too,
more even than with big sister,
the prick playboy husband,
her distraught slashing and hacking
elder son. They are, she is a
Viney now, the wedding over.
I’m McNab, Lorraine McNab.

That someone’s daughter’s child
could be so less, less, less
McNab, less a Viney, Brett?


[The New Australian Poetry, page 290]

Alan Wearne

You’ve a name Sonny, you’ll
take it onto some other, Tracey, perhaps,
the latch, as my mother
mother mother, yours-ours. I?

Tim sleeps and organises somewhere,
Country Conference, tonight. We
understand, there is no ‘side’,
romance is great, we’re, maybe, awake, silent.
Yeah man etc. Strident, practised,
the degrees (honours), organising:
prepared speeches, the trying to be
mate, with men my father
could own sell and ‘mate’
twentyfold. All I comprehend
is action, love, yes as Tim
tours round the state,
organising, screwing the shires’
intelligentsia, knowing I’ll
be back home waiting, like
all I’m not supposed, yeah man etc.

Beats me how I’m to set examples
it’s a chic certain kind of marriage presume,
though, at least we understand;
you marry as you’ve seen, so I
don’t have Tim playing A.A. McNab or
raging roaring as good old dad;
maybe all Marian saw at the end,
nineteen-fiftyfive onward, was family.
Being eldest, she had to be petted
and patted, perhaps as I: I,
could never leave the old man now,
going to see him most weekends,
in a queue of one his favourite
lines up for goodies, gets called ‘Commo’,
if I were a wonder product, Russell flogs.
Some example, after our little chat Tracey;
for it’s not that this Viney business


[The New Australian Poetry, page 291]

Alan Wearne

lands on your shoulders, surely,
it has some effect, the old
‘men are brutes and beasts’ device
is quite evangelistic; you liked them:
Russell and Brett, and to have me
preach preach preach, (as I do),
would be foolish. And, no
the world doesn’t stop spinning,
when you stop anything you like.
Nothing halts, when Brett took out
the blade, lives continued, parents
kept their spar and interchange
boiling: the rest, I, his
sister and brother, you Tracey, stood
not knowing. (If it occurred before!)
Hardly, and Marian toughened,
I admit, it took her time
to realise what I said was
partially correct. Well, not I,
but our movement; she ought to say:
it’s their hypocrisy I cannot stand,
really you know, men are weak,
women keep on sniping bitching,
yet don’t want one more standard,
for us. Men can’t share standards,
share women maybe, standards never:
Russell, (one day Brett). Tim.

O.K. it’s hard and harsh,
and we’re all, excuse the phrase,
groping towards compromise, not
the bald mechanics of overfact.
Happy landings, Trace, happy landings.

      7 Growing

      (Tracey Izzard, Brett’s girl-friend, a high school student)

There’s someone’s homing pigeons
flanking above the last roost
(they’ll have), over the area,


[The New Australian Poetry, page 292]

Alan Wearne

the broad triangle:
(a loose high school pennant)
a wing abandoned and tossed to
turn and return. He can’t come back,
though, what, three railway stations down,
is all the distance. Yes there were
people, plentiful and concerned and,
although he was Brett, my Brett,
I didn’t have to answer anything;
rather they suggested ‘go home…’
Miss Martinson called Simon and I
from classes, whilst at recess he
took me to the gate, no Brett but someone,
an arm over my shoulder,
big lumpy Simon Egan:
‘They’ll leave the area’, called it
The Viney Gloom. ‘Likely’, I said,
and felt like closing my eyes.
Hadn’t felt like thrashing-out
in a fit, yet Simon said
(reassuring, almost Simon demands)
‘Brett, he will get better.’ Thank you.
I looked up and left him.
We knew as much, that the stupid
stupid marriage treated Brett
and the others in convenience. Though
they were nice people, Dad thought them
funny, mother stayed silent;
yet anyhow, that’s the tragedy I guess,
they shrugged between arguments
and then the children, only then Brett.

We’ve had to learn this year.
(Some girl friends having mastered
shorthand and typing, simply
continue, let it all occur.) Oh yes
the 1848 revolution. To be honest
Brett didn’t want me to do it
said he’d done Modern History,
found it slow difficult.


[The New Australian Poetry, page 293]

Alan Wearne

Brett’s brainy, though he worries
and doesn’t work. What he’s done
is cancel out this year; I’m ‘not
to worry.’ Been repeating that phrase
over, ‘Not to worry, not to…’
unconvincing. Didn’t act
as I was stabbed, but took a
week or so from school; maybe
my mother wouldn’t speak, she
didn’t care for Brett, maybe
I watched too many mid-day movies,
great old stars counselling ‘Pull yourself
together girl!’ So I got up,
one muggy humid morning,
depressing day, and thought, ‘When
they see me, they won’t understand,
I suppose pregnancy rumours
have flung my name and Brett’s
around the school. Looks as obvious.’
Well I can trust Marcia, Annabelle, maybe
Jenny and Simon of course, enough.
There’s Legal Studies to catch up,
Modern History, Geography, it wasn’t
a case of pull yourself together,
up, out of it, I love him,
always shall Brett, however to
let him dominate me so, and
his parents, there’s no issue, Tracey,
would they bother your account.

Did Brett bother you, his
father-and-mother’s snapping
sniping? They seemed so ‘having
a gay-and-hearty.’ Remember
when they went out dining,
allowing Brett, I and others, to play records,
good that night, amazing, well,
they came in the door at twelve-
fifteen, looking just like a partnership,
taking his coat off, the vest gave


[The New Australian Poetry, page 294]

Alan Wearne

the appearance of some gambler, she
was in velvet, my parents would be tatty
never yell ‘gay-and-hearty!’

‘Sometimes, these rows,’ oh yes
sometimes he told me, Brett did,
just in passing, Lorraine of course
sought to tell all, trying to pass
the blame nowhere. No Aunt Lorraine,
that was evident, she came round,
argued politics with Mr Viney,
‘I don’t aim to be right Russell, I am!’
Her sister’s posture, he slamming the wire door
left the kitchen, Mrs Viney trotting after,
it seemed the only time he gave way, habits
collapsed, had him muttering in the garden.
‘Trace,’said Lorraine, familiar, ‘Don’t don’t
get involved with any Viney.’ An order?
a threat? There’s Brett. I still like
‘Gay-and-Hearty’, that he should leave
a family, let alone a room, slamming,
it doesn’t square. Other girls…?
But Mrs V was so nice, organised
excellent, withheld, yes and posture
straight back and unlike her sister
didn’t ask to call her name.
She has to be Mrs Viney, as I, one day
might be Mrs anything. Viney, Egan.

The pigeons again!
Fly away Peter, fly away Brett,
come back darling, even to call you that,
Ohh I could be drunk again,
do I, did I, really love him?
Kept so much away. Gracious! mother said,
Some strange boy you had,
leave her, dad replied. Upset. I was.

So I suppose I love him,
Simon, I, and others knew, something,


[The New Australian Poetry, page 295]

Alan Wearne

fouled our friend. Oh he always
respected me and didn’t need reminding
of well, you know, things. He’s neat,
not horribly though, didn’t go out much,
except parties, like,
we’d much to talk about, not like some
girls do, how they’ll get married,
naming the kids Jason and Melissa,
where they’ll live. How much rubbish!
No, Brett would give me books to read
and dad would say, ‘at last
something other than fan magazines,” and I,
‘Ohh Dad — dy’ (playing it up),
‘I’m far too old for Dolly!’
And he’d be chirpy,
whenever Brett arrived (except at migraines),
and he’d delight for a while in ‘Mr Izzard,’
till, ‘the name’s Paul, Brett, remember
though the wife is still, you understand…’

You know what I like, liked the best
apart from being with Brett, you know?
Dad’s green-house, Saturday Morning.
Where we’ve talked about Brett
and Mum, her delicate problems,
he’s not like a father then, an adult,
grown-up, as which he treats me;
love it, the mist outside in late autumn,
it’s nine o’clock, the radio
has finished with Mr Jack Plumridge:
for the Home Gardener, here’s one,
love the stink of Blood-and-Bone,
something is going-on, you know,
growing as Dad says. Not, he adds
like the area. Your mother and I
came when this was land not
houses, stupid to tear up space,
thought we were pioneering, only
to have them come move in move out,
after us. To blame as any


[The New Australian Poetry, page 296]

Alan Wearne

Where were the cow-pats, pathways, blackberries,
pigeon roosts, (one left)?
If it were by a log fire, camping,
or in a hall half filled with cranks
I’d be chilled, feel creepy, yet it’s here
with shrubs and plants and
good old Blood-and-Bone, that I
accept, things growing him raving,
fog and the suburb out there.
And Brett? Leaving but spaces Dad,
would mean no Brett, no school,
and, if someone had your plan before,
no you nor mum nor I nor any greenhouse.

Growth, I suppose, having the plants burst
slowly under the glass under (those mornings)
fog; even pigeons trying to locate
something apart from the roofs
attending their old last home.
Growing I cannot fully say it, but
even Brett, ashamed as he could be,
gone down the line, maybe ever,
he’s sorting things out, maybe I

wasn’t much in the reckonings,
all I can hear are rumours,
but all I believe are plants moving
birds re-turning; (the rest, him,
his books our talks,
arms over my shoulder,
that gay-and-hearty,
maybe spaces, windy spaces).

      from OUT HERE

      9 Midnight thru dawn

      (Paul Izzard, Tracey’s father, a public servant)

I may be asked to, as were, round-off
though don’t expect some he did this,
she said that, happy ever after slice, it
will not hold. We’ve our peeves, fetishes,


[The New Australian Poetry, page 297]

Alan Wearne

(so on and so on), might indulge my own
given space, yet there’s this Viney caper
that, really you know, has to be correct,
in perspective. Therefore dismiss the greenhouse,
lawn-bowls at forty-six, my growing insomnia,
my greater hope of (dare it be?)
clear clean health. Daughter, this your story,
and the Vineys’. Tracey pet, it
did upset you didn’t it? Whatever he,
strange funny boy, felt and held couldn’t,
couldn’t be passed over to you.

But you listened Midnight thru Dawn
to the Tom Donnelly Show, brooded on the tunes,
as if it were your family!
A light shone under the door
and I knocked, entered; your chin hugging
over your knees. Were you ‘pondering’,
or, is that too pretentious?
It’s intolerable, kids so young as him,
as you should be affected so.
And afternoons all you could do
was amble down the hall at half past five
to watch Blind Date.

Tracey, remember when you came into
my small greenhouse one nippy morning, Saturday
it was fog hemmed around us, you
in a dressing gown, floppy slippers,
(year ago? Autumn as now,)
remember? We talked of Brett,
I’d like to meet him of course, when we did
found him aloof rather intense;
had met his parents once, same table at a school
fund-raising dinner-dance: didn’t agree on much,
these people out to sell you something
never have ideas outside your cheque-book.

(But: ‘We’re going out’, what a term, going out
or I’m seeing a lot of… cut your hair


[The New Australian Poetry, page 298]

Alan Wearne

soon after, Trace, and I was disappointed, though
fashions hardly seem to matter to me now.)

He had nice sexy wife though, my style, restrained
charming, she cooled to him though, the dinner-
dance continued, he noisier still, not violent.
‘Please lift him up Paul, I’m
driving home.’ Your mother thought it a cheek,
but I could see it in character and coming.
Out in the car-park he bellowed on
his brother’s old club-song, the greater Viney:
and I thought, holding him up, up, the wife
opening the door, I thought: poor pair, there
indeed seems class, she groomed and bossy,
might, but after he had been
entered to the passenger’s seat,
she stood, looking over the car
at me, rather embarrassed, but the eyes thanking.

I don’t know whether you
loved their son, presumption I suppose,
you never acted moony-eyed, writing
his name on anything, you aren’t my
daughter for, see what I mean?
They call us off-beat, as, I trust
we you are, I am. What stupid name!
Izz — ard, called Lizard from grade one
onwards. ‘Tracey’ I like, so there,
not many of them around; now
when your mother and I met, Janet,
that was the name, what’s today’s serving
Trudy or Nudey? Tracey’s a name!
’Cause your mother hated it, knew,
after eight years you’d be our first
our only Tracey any Izzard.
Your mother’s head seems held in
perpetual migraine, it isn’t but
notice how taut around the temples…
wished for more children, wished,
so I can’t say your mood after Brett


[The New Australian Poetry, page 299]

Alan Wearne

stabbed himself was like hers,
there seemed confusion yes, yet no despair,
but to say invoke ‘See what I mean?’
is high presumption. Why, why
shouldn’t you despair, despair again,
receive migraines, lose weight,
on someone who tried to kill himself,
because his parents, were what,
weak, no, immature, maybe: I
may be asked to as were, chuck
this discourse, if only it wasn’t for
you, Tracey, but don’t get me wrong,
everything I do isn’t always yours,
I have my life in tweed-coat old green-
fingers in the glass-house.
Exotica? Ahh Tracey just mucking around
with nature. Glad you come out
to see my garden grow, on Saturdays
I like our talks, my ravings against
the city council, what came after us,
go stupid against developers, their heirs:
faces of the young plump men with those
angular ginger sideburns, assertive eyes, minds
trained to tap a keg; this area
no longer ‘began’, their jerry haciendas, patios
and porticos, their wrought iron gates in
gee-gaw curls and swirls,
and all squat, if dropped as hay-bales.
I love to hate them, live with them,
work with them, I’m in Viney land part
of the scenery. Now these go-getters,
thanks that they sleep, Bellevue Heights, The Grange,
The Crest, The Panorama, their Karinya Crescent,
well, it’s midnight, after midnight now,
twenty-eight nights since you refused
sleep, sleeping tablets anything, but stayed up,
hugging, as I’ve said blankets, listening
to some second-string announcer pump out
Golden Oldies. Thanks that you’re asleep now,
everyone is, the Vineys — wherever, your Brett,


[The New Australian Poetry, page 300]

Alan Wearne

your mother, all of Bellevue Heights, all sleeping
except I, the study light on, reading
magazines, and yes listening to
The Tom Donnelly Show, chewing over,
What in the hell did they do? Ahh
it’s occurring everywhere, praise not here.
I’m too intolerant of argument, to have
my life changed; arguing with her,
reasons’s the watchword, would all
could use it… Ramble on, rambling rose,
must be getting tired, for kiddo,
the sun rising is mid-day and
dusk elsewhere. O, I know there’s
not much basis in a father’s Pollyanna antic
but Tracey it wasn’t dreadful, I mean
just your father speaking, I,
clearing the, shit it’s a botch daughter
O Tracey it’s all right,
it’s all right, everything is going to be, all right.


      (The speaker is Elise McTaggart, an elderly woman looking
      back at her childhood / adolescence in the twenties)

Life was back-lanes, therefore out of bounds,

(the fence turned moss rotting into mulch;)

and father stayed us. Rich to say so. Rich

of Kathleen in the wash-house, singing. What?

white little cottages, mother and The Lord. Our god

was the tea trade, cocoa and coffee trade. That lot

entered us to ‘circles’, better kind of folk:

whose was a world, no, land of thank-you, please;

we gave and obtained respect, affection. Love? Thirteen

and I thought it a bad sad joke.

‘Mum kissed the iceman, comely as you like, Elise.’

Like? I like? I like it not, Kathleen!


[The New Australian Poetry, page 301]

Alan Wearne

Seeing them in Brighton still, the lanes. If

then, no doubt now: huts by the fence.

I played near the house though; (father’s girl showed sense.)

Huts? Would I join brother Keith

and his Cannibals Club? Rather be a coon

on the moon! All that ‘Gang, here’s sis!’ And

Elise Isabel Merrill: ladies college, hand-over-hand

demur, froze. Prig? (Oh, but only to the ‘helps’.) Soon

though, when Josie got expelled, or left or something,

(school and all bayside a-buzz,) it shot to my heart:

— funny, we’re ladies now, exempted from well, naught.

And later when Keith was coupe-courting,

goodness knows where who, I’d lie awake, start

to wonder: when how might I be something? Tempted, taught.

      (The speaker is Ian Metcalfe, a freelance journalist. He
      is fascinated, almost obsessed, by Terri, a parlour-girl)

Voices behind the doors. Muzak, or something, in our room,

our bath-room! (Its owner, depending on your news source,

a gambler or gangster.

                                Terri was wide-eyed and friendly so of course

I was cagey and quiet; not to assume enough is to assume

too much. ‘Gee you’re nervous. I won’t bite.’ ‘Pity,’

I replied. She grinned and, for the bath, bunched her long dark-brown hair

back from the neck. (We’ve always the first time, its reason to be there,

I track it down to chance, the city.)

Later she said: ‘Tension can play havoc with my looks, some men,

oh not you, you’re nice, but some, I’ll never know,

never be certain…’ Yes it must ache to wink smile and show

the good animated face. She’s on her own then,

self-employed, and all her surgeons and lawyers and company

whiz-kids can’t help. ‘On weekends I get out to parties discos.’ ‘Away from this?’

‘Always away from this.’ Quit the great, eh, leave the famous;

and I thought: Ian, working-girls live too, sleep no doubt. You understand me?


[The New Australian Poetry, page 302]

Alan Wearne

But what a way to carry out a life,

chatty, nude and ruthless! All her great men I’ll never know

or want to know: old men old cocks, anxious to show

life in the old fella yet, to the daughters they wanted… the wife

was never like that, tell me I’m good, they murmur,

you’re so-o great. She lies, listens to the desperate words and beautiful music.

‘Then I thought, I need the money, I’ve a good body, use it.’

(To become a mere working-girl was enough, no tart, no whore,

no courtesan.) ‘I like meeting men, some bring me perfume and flowers;

I’m careful, you’d never find me like Jacqui, mandied out and all set

for a blow-job on a cop; if I got busted I’d quit.

Of course it’s the waiting that hacks. I might go for hours

without a man, a client. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Then,

apart from a fair wad of notes that the boss has

owing, I’m a free girl.’

                                          A client arrives, she undresses and works, he says

screwing you is so great. She lies and listens to men.

Those hyenas: the pimps the hoons? Is it like that? Doubt it,

not at The Crystal Palace: a real clinic-of-love, hospital clean,

starched covers, whiff of talcum; (though they call their piped-out theme-

music ‘beautiful’, which I don’t.)

                                                            So I said ‘Tell me about it,

frankly I’m fascinated.’ ‘What, everything?’ ‘Yes, everything.’ That’s

what I said and she said, well, something. Weird you know, almost had to laugh,

hearing milady’s life, in a bubble bath!

There she lay, tall calm nevertheless alert. After our chats

wouldn’t it be ridiculous to say: I’ll save you, I’ll act out here?

Too right Ian, ridiculous, paternalist, presumptuous, and sexist;

I dropped such thoughts seeing Terri in mufti. You exist,

I smiled, you can look after yourself, as I, but do so;

you’ve a head, as it were, to self-preserve, I mean, it’s an art


[The New Australian Poetry, page 303]

Alan Wearne

to catwalk, sanity intact through your life, with that malice

the city emits, fear from its citizens. Seeing you out of The Palace

was enough. I concluded: the girl can do it, you’re great, you’re smart.

An hour of slops, but for your attendance

Terri; and our pause, snap, taking-it-in-our-stride


                      Drizzle clung to the Friday night, and inside

someone broke a glass, another called me Baretta. Nonsense,

raw Albion nonsense.

                                      Shuffling through the saloon, though,

steadied on Bourbon-and -ice, I find you with two men

(gangsters friends clientele?) I grin you wink, then

you mouth ‘no, no,’ and wink once more;

all very stagey, but smooth and just think,

a lifetime waiting for this, this: how to give

a sign a silence no-one would see, will know: a five-

ten-second dumbshow: the big bad grin, the wink.

Well, after a week’s work you sit, into these slophours,

here with the bands and brawls. Oh shit, to have missed

proof! If nobody’s loved, Terri you exist!

Laughing I jump into Lygon St., the showers.