Doctor Renshaw kept a small practice. House calls
and a neat set of rooms on Nepean Avenue.
His only son was a coxswain in a quick eight;
played by a very young Mickey Rooney,
he was forever bounding into Renshaw’s den
with the sort of problem particular to young men
of high energy and moderate, affable looks.
On warmer autumn evenings, Doctor and Mrs Renshaw
would stroll along the river to take the air, perhaps
with a well-trained red setter, named quite
progressively, after some American modernist
poet. ‘Fetch, Ezra!’ The dog would like to swim.
They’d stop and embrace in a spotlight of moon
light, there at a rotunda or bandstand, with blue
and red and white election bunting hanging—
and Mrs Renshaw would play a sweet jazz standard,
or the latest Cole Porter tune on her saxophone,
and the light would make a shining world of brass.
As she blows, baby, blows! Renshaw would tilt
his head, and spread a steady surgeon’s hand
over Ezra’s warm skull, gazing through the soft
filter of evening. A phalanx of Air Force cadets
would pass the empty tennis courts in full dress,
and Renshaw would count off the Christian names
of each rigid boy that he’d delivered. ‘Quiet, Ezra!’
The dog would smell a fox and straighten. The breeze,
which was never really there, would drop and a chill
would take Mrs Renshaw’s last long note. They’d return
more quickly, in longer shadows, with a familiar bad feeling.
The kettle would go on, the phone would ring too loudly,
echoing over the still surface of the black river.
A line of blank verse he’d composed in the park
would fade as the telephone receiver clicked free.
Perhaps an accident on the Mulgoa road, he’d wonder, the fog
is heaviest there. ‘Doctor Wren Shore?’ His hand, already tight,
would whiten around the worn black handle of his bag.