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