The Wrong Address index

Dementia
William Street, Armadale, Victoria 1977 

 

 

You notice the cracks first, the grey streaks

Like grime between the fingernails,

A working history of the inner city

Coded in tired brick walls,

Split and peeling window sashes,

The charm of Victorian ironwork

Despised by rust and neglect.

 

Next you are surprised

By the first poses of ownership, the new car

On hire purchase at the door,

The mortgages that cling

Like reproving relatives, confining

The feckless generosity of young ideals

To a slight delay : tomorrow, they mumur

Is postponed until the bills are paid.

Eventually you understand :

Their designer renovations will remain enshrined

In airbrushed pictures

From coffee-table-conversation magazines.

 

One day the aspiring possibilities of youth

Are panicked by the mirror-eye of middle-age.

The house is three-quarters "owned"

And lives three-quarters lost, blurred

With the dull palette of paradise ommitted,

When a smooth-talking agent persuades

Old hope to find a haven up the coast,

And "prime real estate" is on the move,

A "sure investment" for the young executive

With vision and a working wife.

 

Marigold's addition to these yuppy postcodes

Was one of nature's accidents;

No hovering menace of a mortgage here.

And if she slipped a little at the edge of gaiety,

The fault was from an inner, subtler pain.

Her house in Armidale, so like its kin,

Had been a final afterthought,

Detritus of a declining inheritance

Assembled by a dignified and grasping ancestor

From backroom political payoffs

In the ruthless years of the Great Depression.

 

Now it stood, modest and stolid

With three dead pot plants on the porch,

Its extra bedrooms rented out

To a cavalcade of men, forlornly classified

By Marigold ( they quickly came to see)

As maybe Right for a longer stay

In the street of rising names.

 

Born to an age when women no longer waited

Like hatracks in the vestibule

Of a man's career, Marigold did duty

Collecting the views of expectant mothers

On throwaway nappies and tabulating

The mercenary needs of corporate accountants;

Market research, they called it.

 

Her two-piece jacket and skirt,

The white ruffle blouse and glued coiffure

Wrapped and concealed a muffled chaos :

Marigold was decaying along the fault line

Between known terror of her daily work

And statistical projections of a lonely decline;

Freeze-dried in a tableau of tomorrow's dread,

Pasted with two cats and a television

In the tarsealed frame of an urban snapshot.

 

Roger the Dodger was my intro' to the joint.

I chanced upon him flogging the life

Out of an exhausted yellow-cab

To make an extra buck; an old pal,

My gnomish friend had never lost his sense

Of the absurd, and in a knockabout way

Mostly honed his sense of turning a quid

In the computer consultancy racket.

Nothing to it mate, yeah, you wanna' bed?

There's this broad with a plaster-cast hairdo..

The house, come over, check it out.

 

Money, sheilas, whaddya want,

A ticket to heaven ?

With modesty he told us then

The highlights of a Dodger's way

- we sank another beer -

On a raucous, drizzling afternoon

At the mid-week races this tipsy tart

On a streak of luck, took the battered cab

To a lonely spot and paid him by the hour

To lick and tickle in the pink of pleasure -

Said the Dodger, what the hell..

 

Half a gnome's luck, but soft breaks

Are not in my contract

With the great puppeteer in the sky;

Downtown from the loveless pavements

A room is a room, and a bed without bugs

Is a bed, so who's to complain?

Until trapped with your money

In a bond and a lease, you look again.

 

Time came, we did.

Even the Dodger and I stepped back

At the artifacts of Marigold's creeping derangement.

In the flaming orange-bright kitchen,

Cupboards fumed with collapsing putrid grocery bags

Bought and forgotten; black slime in the bath,

Cat piss on the carpets;

Accidental unspeakable glimpses

Past bedlam's door to the the budoir of Shelob.

 

Faced with the stuff of Picasso's dreams

We retreated at last

To the imitation Spanish decor of a corner pub

To settle our sensibilities,

And plot hasty exits

To a poem less surreal around the edges.

 

A mortgage for the Dodger,

His house of tired bricks in a quiet suburb

A sure investment; for me, Dag's Progress

To another city up the coast,

Pilgrim in search of a cause

With all the world's wisdom

Packed on the roof-rack of an ancient Kombi van.

 

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THE WRONG ADDRESS 
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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