The Wrong Address index
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.
© copyright Thorold May 1995 All Rights Reserved
published by The Plain & Fancy Language Company ACN 1116240S Sydney, Australia
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