First the hour.
Lying depleted, shed.
In a hotel room guarded by card slot time.
In a building of glass and steel,
on a street of ivy lined innuendo,
coffee filtered coercion and terraced terror.
In a city seeming sweet and vulnerable yet defensive:
cornered by drought, threatened by light, armoured
within a mushroom cloud of subatomic chaos.
I felt her before I saw her
dust made its way in her cut-out shapes
musk spittled her outline upon my skin
dusk scuttled her contours’ shadows on liquid walls
lust of liquor, sweat, scorched tar librettoed her ego
I snuffed her in by increments;
thimbled particles of promise.
I refuse deserts. Mountains. Forests. Gorges. Lakes.
My life doesn’t unfurl, meander, unfold—snail paced.
Not lived on unpasteurised produce, fresh air,
It’s pixellated, high octane, insatiable image driven—
moment consumed next forgotten.
I remember not the names of countries
But in here, in this horizonless city, I feel the ocean.
Feel the swell:
smell oxygen, taste salt, touch what swims within.
She is here.
In here, Room 703:
between her legs,
on her surface all quivering with gulls
in my belly,
through the fluted purple coral of her throat
by her drowning breath,
in the song forming as a villanelle in my head
in sonic waves,
that lash my tongue’s tip then pound elsewhere
at high speed frequency—breaking light
I can see.
Through her eye’s slit, a crescent moon of enigmatic light peeps—halfway between life and exaltation—
and in holding sight of me,
stars draw in their panting fires.
Entire civilisations implode
in the dying constellation of her face.
In this: the last hour.
‘I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free,
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.’
Never any other day, other time.
Never another bus, street. Nor stop.
Only ever: Sundays. 09:36. Ferryden Park, Kilburn, Wellington Square.
Always with this song.
Not with bags. Nor market trolley.
Nothing to shield from white sun,
nor hydrate in blue heat.
Just the hymn.
And always kerb-side. Front, window set.
At the stobie superglued poster from post-Twin Towers
right on cue: ‘Don’t Be a Lert. Be a Llama. Ha ha ha!’
Her bun-bird’s nest of dry straw, copper wire, brillo thread threatens to cliff fall
save the polka-dot-synthetic scarf.
Her tissue thin cheeks are caked in bubble-gum-pink blush,
as per ventriloquist dummies.
Her rheumy fish-bowl eyes are shadowed in cupcake-blue-icing,
like Les Girls dancers.
Her fish bone frame bends feebly, as if broth-soaked
but pot’s now dry.
‘The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears,
the figure she carries or the way she combs her hair.’
Her dress, nylon with florid print, splutters beneath
cardigans and cagoules from op-shops’
bargain basement bin.
Pointless to a contrarian, haltingly she carries herself
stockingless, in silver-lurex sandals
that maybe used to fit.
Khaki bus shelter graffiti pukes: ‘Feminists walk amongst you! Ha ha ha!’
No one ever sits near.
Nor talks to her though she talks non-stop.
With iPods, iPhones, Kindles they don’t even listen.
‘If you’re not careful, the media will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.’
I tune in.
Her tone a feast belying her anorexic physicality.
This is what I pick up:
She would have been found smoking cigarellos
with Collette in dapper-duds
kissing under lamplight on Rue de Pigalle
and later manequinned for Saint Laurent.
In search of her ashen love shot
by Sherman in Manhattan.
And in the space of fixation, ends up here
at world’s edge.
All expectations spent.|
Where love’s loss and time’s mistake rendered her
a 1970s pastiche of Miss Haversham.
She says we can visit her past
at the Tate in 1998, Pompidou in 2002.
For as Collette says—mine and hers:
‘By an image we hold on to our lost treasures,
but it is the wrenching loss that forms the image, composes, binds the bouquet.’
Welly Square stop is here.
Bus mimics passengers’ collective sigh, as she drops
like browning petals to teeter in the gutter’s grate.
Turning, she primes her palms,
Von Trapp kids’ farewell song poised.
This time, in her pause, I proffer:
‘What is forgiveness?
And Sufi replied:
It’s the fragrance that flowers give
when they are crushed.’
And glass doors squish shut at her gasp.
A slot. Five fingered fit.
Recycled pieces of pulped wood are sleeved
dropping at dawn
to go West.
A day lay in the dark
when the moon was to turn on its other side
emptying its millennium ashtrays
on to Earth.
A day in cinders
when weeks of gutter gripes and trash talk
went up in flames
falling to Earth.
A day in mortar
when cracked caches of granite
pestled molten steel
A day in diaspora
when woman and wallaby
collided pitch perfect
A day in eclipse
when the black eye
seered hope blind
And from this day
in this backburn of time
a letter lies.
All I left you.
All that’s left
In the only thing
in the town that stood here.
Australia Post’s box.
‘Fire engine red’ they call it
even to this day.
Michele Saint-Yves is an Adelaide-based writer who lives with disability and primarily writes for performance—stage, screen and poetry. When able, she loves swimming in wild water places, dancing in the rain and delving in to the rabbit hole of lesbian web-series.