The Wrong Address index

Barbecue Blues
Waterloo Street, Howick, New Zealand 1976 


You've seen them populating the landscape

Like embarrassed teenage girls not built

For fashion and the flirting style :

Cheap investments by the newly rich,

Economical apartments trimmed and tarted up

With mini balconies and aluminium eyebrows,

Their flushed face-brick neatness scarcely concealing

Identical interiors of pre-assembled pastel boredom.


But then you're quick to judge and slow

To find our hidden passions. Upstairs downstairs

High class or low - Shall we be labelled

By a speculator's whim ?

No! they said; come to Gino's shop

And have an equalizing mozarella pizza,

So I did and we weren't.


I moved in. Downstairs

To a studio-bedroom (as the agent said)

Half carpeted, a sinful double bed thrown in.

For the memory of grass and halycon skies

I painted the concrete floor green

And planted hints of summer :

Languorous chairs , a garden table

Brilliant white, shaded from fluorescent suntan

By a giant striped beach umbrella.


The menagerie above caged nature's pride,

An amiable chaos of randy fellows.

Terry shuffled a shifting pack,

Women won on patter, sympathy and brawn

While hollow-chested Evan with his music scored

Harmony, a girl like Spring; and Michael was condemned

By black fingernails and halting speech to making love

With hard sleek engines on the garage floor.


The slash and burn barbecue à la wheelbarrow

(Bush waggon for the coke)

Was a man-made catastrophe,

Planned (so we said) to stake out a holding-paddock

For skittering women and other dumb pets.

We had to let it happen, had to strike for fame

In the wastelands of hey-wacha-doin-tonight.


Nouvelle cuisine is a curley ask in a bachelor's dive;

Cabbage is cabbage, so when I was asked

To cut the coleslaw for our great shibang

It seemed a natural to serve it neat

With a dose of vinegar shot in - well

How's a guy to know the genteel tastes

Of maids and carpet salesmen :

Whose idea was this commando mission

Into the mysteries of social style ?


Pink luminescent strobes painted the ether

And assaulted our domestic souls;

Snatches of uncomprehended niceties clung

Between the hammer-beat of heavy rock,

While a thin harvest of restless sweet things

Dropped NOT VACANT signs over their gilded eyeballs.

Catching a general view of life,the barbecue objected,

Sank into deep gloom and sent its acrid smoke bombs

Spiralling up the staircase.

We quit, and settled for a burial :

Requiem to burnt sausages without honour.


So much for mating customs, we thought,

Get on with life, don't judge us by our coleslaw.

So we did, and would you believe it,

They did.


Terry went funny, fell in love,

Wooed a blind pianist and got a job

Selling corks to rumbustious vintiers;

Evan floated off in a bubble of semi-quavers

While Michael sought solace, sprawled luxuriously

Amongst cartons of beer, fiddled and tuned

The temperamental carburettors of rich men's Jaguars.


My concrete Riviere with its neon sun

Remained uncluttered by languorous bodies

For in truth

I like the psychic space of silence.



Fragments from an Australasian Life
Thorold MAY
copyright Thorold May 1995 All Rights Reserved 
published by The Plain & Fancy Language Company ACN 1116240S Sydney, Australia
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