Ian C Smith’s work has appeared in Axon:Creative Explorations,The Best Australian Poetry, London Grip, Poetry Salzburg Review, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, The Weekend Australian,& Westerly His latest book is Here Where I Work,Ginninderra Press (Adelaide). He lives in the Gippsland Lakes area of Victoria, Australia.
Pretending to write as instructed, I sense
a man I first met twenty minutes ago
edge backwards like a servant into a corner
between my window and a sideboard
as old and shabby as opportunism.
Below art-deco sliding glass panels, remnants
behind peeling varnished lower doors,
maps of a peculiar existence.
I allude to life’s raw bric-a-brac,
construct gorgeous lies about relationships.
A marginalia-graffitied publishing handbook
moulders with embarrassing manuscripts,
folders of tender poems from student days,
even old sporting trophies tarnishing
like feelings neglected then plundered.
I stare at ghosts through this window,
past the veil of curtains the man scrunches
seeking to distance himself from me.
Following a dream I decipher an occluded past,
linking echoes of domestic tempests.
I know the illiterate scorn dilettantism
but a triumphant news item adorns my desk.
Absorbing reviewers’ praise, I lurk,
a giant squid in the uncharted abyss,
still, silent, ready to reduce the unwary.
On the sideboard a souvenir of King Kong,
photographs of family who no longer visit,
whose mouths were once eager with dialogue.
The man knocks over my lovelorn gorilla
with his video camera I must not look at.
100 odd years ago #2
A hundred odd years ago the Wright Brothers
flew their hundred odd haphazard yards,
today’s skyscrapers only imagined silhouettes
piercing an innocence of cloud-scudded sky
like the pyramids and the Eiffel Tower.
Going through the musty belongings
of my adventurous landlord, the old pilot,
newspapers, magazines, ghosts
crying out from bundled archives,
I find a thin red book, clothbound,
Exerpta Therapuetica in gold lettering
published back then by a drug company.
Bubonic plague spreads from Adelaide to Sydney.
The Black Death. Rats. Buboes bursting.
The book advises on home treatment,
ventilation, rest, medicines of the day,
my mind skittering from horror
but admiring the onionskin pages.
This fraught sickbed offers some consolation,
brandy, beer, and stout are also prescribed.
Imbecilic with dread, I would need the brandy.
It has grown late while I inhabit the past,
sounds of tyres on a wet road.
I raise this exquisite book, sniff its odour.
On my return flight I am strangely stirred.
I consider those newspapers. Another time.
On my feet still
I left my treasured boxing scrapbooks
when I hit the road, morning light thin
like my hastily packed travelling bag.
It was winter, time to go.
Now, after gruelling years of silence
I ask what became of them.
Another unaccountable loss,
guilt, reminders of damage done.
I feign nonchalance,
stoic defence solid, though rusty,
hold hard until my head clears.
I loved them but couldn’t take them with me.
What is it about rain?
Surrounded all night long,
sometimes a susurrus, insistent again.
What is it about this alluvial sound
that promotes thinking, remembered
scenes nursed like familiar pain?
At times hard, damned hard,
remorseless as existence, this mixed thrill,
then easing as though respite craved
when sore and seeking sanctuary
from the vicissitudes of will.
Downpour, persistent, soaks senses,
the still past lying alongside, awry,
or is it just the beating of a heart,
listening to welcome guttering voices,
confessions from time swept by?