The gulf between a mute, elementary
kitchen and the more garrulous
maisonette is so mandatory,
so legalistic, as to entice only choirs
of staring cats and matted kittens,
broodily attuned to dementia of plumbing
like geniuses of the waiting-room.
Across this torpid lantern-jawed strip
down which randy beams tilt
when you are least expecting them,
the Best of the Original Fleetwood Mac
winds down on its crusted track,
convulses like an urban journey,
as if some grave, dilating guitarist,
the Seneca of Woodstock, digits
and features crippled in surprise,
reckons with the Parousia of Marketing.
Now only the uxorious pigeon’s
captious insight rides the novel air,
affronting limb-locked plane trees;
and a transcendental Spitfire
bombarding our tenemental suburb
with sachets of pink detergent.
But this is another century,
another kind of phoney war,
the politicians’ noses powdered
on one side like fruity overtures.
When at last I am free to begin,
when I plug these dubious imaginings,
I find I have no appetite for laundry
or maundering – not as free as I thought.
What shall I do with this thing, this life?
Where shall I bury it, dragging
a recusant spine over terminal ice?
In the bright mauve curtainless cell
opposite mine, confronting it even
like a glib date capable of one lisped taunt,
a precocious Jewish boy, on holidays
from California, lambasts his adoring aunts,
listing all their mortal deficiencies:
trite coffee, falsetto chat, carcinogenic eggs,
fond talk at midnight through a wall.
Now and then, exploding their shy defences
like the brilliant attorney he aspires
to be, he consults my herby sill,
sane jury of thyme and fennel and marjoram,
to watch them batten on his rhetoric.
Peter Rose is an Australian poet, memoirist, critic, novelist and editor.