The Wrong Address index

Silver Screen
Epson, Auckland NZ 1975

 

 

Well, surprise.

Another child with black and white vision..

You're a hasty man. Grey vision for a grey day.

Doesn't Rudolph Valentino give you goose bumps ?

Under my toenails. Where are you sitting ?

A Thursday afternoon, rain, a cinema,

An accidental meeting, Julie.

Something special.

 

His mind was shaped in a different place,

The architect's and mine,

Gables with pirouettes of ice from an English winter

Had steeped his memory.

Mine, the sparse shade of Australian summers,

Burnt grass, verandahs.

But she was here in her bones, Julie,

Known to the soft rain and wisteria.

 

I had followed the architect of Epson Hall

To the genteel bucaneering town of Auckland

For a spell in teacher's college.

From a circular drive

I eyed the Hall's white clinker lines,

Like a cruise liner moored in the greenery,

Then tossed my kit aboard for a year.

 

After the film we walk in a circle of rain,

Shoulder to shoulder, in our hands a tent

For two; the black umbrella drums softly.

Who are you lady, who is this man

In my shoes ? This softness and lightness,

This hair tingling laughter

Is not in the script. I know your irony

Julie, I've watched your eyes dissect poor Wilson

And all the court's pretenders,

Play catch-me-if-you-can,

But who put us together on the silver screen,

Who whispered love ?

 

The Hall sheltered babes and grandmothers,

A sanctuary for making schoolteachers, they said,

A half-way house for growing through life's stages

Where daddy thought you safe in the hands

Of mister Wilson, who could also play jazz

And was felt to vibrate with proper empathy.

Perhaps it was for worldless pilgrims too

Since I've never been sure of my planet of origin ..

 

We ride home in plodding J2, my old grey van;

Her home with mum and dad and all the relatives,

Stuffed in that special Eastern European way

With bric-a-brac, velvet cushions, silver spoons,

Glass cabinets, souvenir plaques from seaside spas.

Here I am (weedy little colonial) being bone-crushed

By the great square fist of father.

Do you play chess? he growls;

What, dragons to slay already ?

Only on a full moon old man,

With favour from the goddess.

 

My Maori grandmothers at Epson Hall (they claimed me)

Revelled in body-warmth at the whare kai :

They had fled the blank walls of pakeha houses ..

E tamaiti ! You're not eating,

You'll get skinny and die !

Marama you old witch ! Fatten us like pigs eh,

Then stuff us with hot stones for your hangi ?

Kati ! Listen to this matchstick !

All bones, no flesh,

Cold bones. Aue !

 

Here is elder sister, a weightier edition,

Sister-in-law, mother, grandma on the antimacassar

Shaking with gargantuan laughter,

Expanding down the line,

Sight them off in the shooting gallery :

What's your prize sir ?

So this is what tomorrow looks like,

And how many kilos ago did that one simper

As a swain hoisted her with reckless strength

Over the glowing threshold ?

Aue ! The future is too heavy to hold.

 

They transmogrified on long weekends,

Changed plumage and body odour, grew rings

On their fingers, these final-year college girls.

Like locusts who'd munched their way

Through rich pastures of indulgence,

The horde sighed,

A mighty rustling it was; cast around for a male

To feed and breed with.

My glamourless shade

Drew some stragglers in desperate moments,

Comic sad little locusts waving their feelers

For the wish of a nascent Frog Prince.

 

I remember, she runs out to say goodbye,

Dark hair falling about her bright eyes,

Waiting for a kiss,

And the first pain of doubt in her glance,

That last instant by the roadside

As I leave limply, flattered, astounded,

Hating myself.

 

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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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