The Wrong Address index

Halls of Academia
Newcastle NSW, 1980 


One day they forgot the muzak

And we lost our disguise; suddenly

Bladed carnivores were heard in a rising crescendo

As cold steel mandibles crushed and tore

At the rendered carcasses of broiler chickens.

This was the Hall of Residence

Of a not yet great university,

Where the hopeful splendiferous were listed

Like war dead, on wooden plaques

When they passed with certified mentalities

Into the employment offices on Main Street.


I lie : some would move

Serenely into daddy's business,

While others hoped to catch the habits

Of a boutique and brandy lifestyle;

The cloying odour of callow landed privilege

Hung about their bunkhouse jokes,

The sports cars resting sleekly outside,

The weekend woolshed dances at `okay' spots.

It was not their fault, not yet, not quite.


Somewhere on my bookshelves there's a picture,

Chilly science fiction, a space-port

Inherited from cavernous futures

Where warps of time and place intersect;

Travellers from oblivious worlds

Pass as shadows on the mirrored floor;

And summoned by wandering memory

I see amid those elusive faces

Our overseas students from "The Hall".


Elsewhere people.

People ? Split by a gulf

Of polyester shirts and stacatto intonation

Exiles in thong country,

Shunning the zinc cream and T-shirt drawl,

They agglutinated at feeding time

To trade news on charter flights

And regret their splendid isolation

From the hustle of Asian cities.


So I rolled like a lemon

Between beer nuts and gado gado

To settle at last for adorning the Asian salad

As a kind of crinkled appertif,

Tolerated, a token concession to local cuisine.

They pacified me

With tidbits of careful English

And wondered with sidelong glances

About ASIO and the KGB,

Whether skullbones of the whispering night

Hovered to claim reports at my hand

On their brand of brilliantine.


Other outland palefaces lingered,

Decorations in the Asian Quarter,

Merely quixotic in courteous quarrantine,

Fishing for some common equation

Some cryptic sign of minds working.

They mostly found it, found the banality

Or surprise; small favours, a message passed,

Sen's lucky day, Fong dropping things as usual.


Here and there, rare, eccentrically curious imports,

My doubles in adventure,

Migrated across the no-go zone,

Said gidday mate; tried to admire sagas

Of the legendary Great Pissup, left saddened

By gaping indifference

To their traveller's gift of second knowing.


One man built his bridge and walked it;

Glen arrived for a term, escapee from mother

Making up his bed and wrapping lunch,

Laughed in his creaky way

Some bacon & egg breakfast time,

And was wed to a Japanese girl in bobby-sox.

Gleeful beer and kisses were passed out

Under a backyard tarpaulin in a miner's house,

While the perlexed politician,

Her father, rushed from Sapporo,

Grasped strangers and bowed

With horror in his eyes.


Later, together hand in hand

They came down a foot track towards me

Stepping over tufts of grass, and my heart sang for them

In the timeless bright morning,

For this was a thing destined, as it was meant to be

Though I didn't understand its making

Or my own crooked, wishful smile as they passed.



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
go to Table of Contents