The Road to Fitzroy

surface now through that layer
of tattoos which float like pieces of cellophane
while she stays under
that cat of horror sleeps within her
a strange pigeon which now drops through
this abyss of pipes and black windows, settles on the ledge
and regards you, startled and intent
your only friend deep in this
embossed grey dawn
he’s safe from the cat, the only white pigeon
you will see all day, and he’s as bewildered
by his significance as you are.
you pump coffee until you’re blood turns sour
then away
to some construct of breakfast, built quick as a card house
I sit, feel as thin as the furniture on this slate street
as the Greeks behind me talk of cousins
tales of the old country
we’re all contained; all men; all confident; all smoking
as a man blackened just like a rifle rag
pulls himself through the muzzle of the morning
and testifies in a gashed tribal tongue
shouted details; here is war and here is exodus
here is that which tore
his brain from its cocoon and left him to words sheared
of all bluster, barking truth down Swanston Street
this dawn: I watch him in English, they watch him
in Greek and English and he disappears now
with all his volume

looking back into a country barely bordered by sleep
I remember a girl I knew
in some era before the black world turned grey
as these tattoos move in some pastoral dawn of their own
swallows and butterflies, skull totem forget-me-nots
drift up from the harvest
and as with every other day (just somewhere else now)
I don’t know where I’ll go
and nobody knows where I am this moment
which is the greatest prize there is
so away from the event horizon where I
watched the abyss, a smoking cosmonaut on a drifting deck
I am now flying with the swallows and the insects
the eagle, the beasts and demons
we’ll go as we please
the cat which sleeps within her will not rend us
when its eyes open again, heavy as comets
lethal as bibles
we’ll go blowing through the city
like a cavalcade of fairground moths
like a flight of hobo pixies
on the march at dawn
when the cat ignites with her
we are away, we are awake
hauling my universe through the city like a flag
and this is real and true and grand
and this is how it works; you do your real living
in the spaces between protocol
I crouch in a blunt laneway: Fitzroy
with another paper cup coffee, another cigarette
me here, as permanent as cellophane
in the hard cool shadow
the glory in cobblestone
wrought iron, density
there is nowhere else I would rather be
this pure, laundered flag-dragging glory
sun and shadow, all mine
I am still, free and in wonder
I am exactly as I want to be
and none of this means that my heart
is not spilling bright arterial blood
at a murdering rate of knots
all over the cobblestones and the paper cup
blood racing silent, flooding outwards
deepening all shadow
falling down across my fingers and rings
and filling up my sneakers.

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