The Wrong Address index

The Last Cockatoo
Illawarra Avenue, Cardiff NSW 1979 

 

 

Now how about a cup of tea eh,

Sit down sit down, yes tea

Just a minute, nice bit of toast

There I'll make some toast. What do you think?

Hands transparent with age, that try to grip,

Their shaping almost over.

 

..You need a place ? Merv has a place

Joyce had chuckled like a mischievous cherub,

Old bugger he is, gotta watch Merv.

So here we were.

 

That crew from the Last Supper clung to a bedroom wall,

Condemned to inspect our squalid condition;

From yellow space helmets their mournful Italian eyes

Tried to make sense of a dozen half-read books,

Unironed shirts, and some alien god's constituent

Obtuse and unrepentant,

Dismantling a carburettor with infinite care

On the Lord's day of rest. We coexisted,

Our syncretic miracle, to find a thread of humour

Over crumpets and honey.

There is a sacrament wherever wry men meet.

 

They visit me you know; these photos, look,

This is Edwina, a tigress she is,

Never cross that one mate, and here mm

Bessie, the first you see,

We had some times her and me ...

I'll never forget them days by the lake,

And on the other end there is Mavis;

She used to stand right where you are now,

And polish silver,

Always polishing spoons, Mavis.

You'll hear them

Banging when they call at nights.

 

I never did

But the spirit of another age was near enough,

And the little red-brick church

Where Joyce and Merv met mediums of the dead

Seemed a haven for old chivalries;

They spoke the clear hard tongue of mining folk

And each paused to lend a hand, or smile

While them Ladies on The Hill sniggered mortally,

Passing by to their beauticians and morticians.

 

The bundy clock and furnace, pitiless work

Had consumed his peers,

Yet Merv found life and frugal nourishment

Like some ancient exotic plant

On the unweeded slag heap of souls.

 

He didn't wait for friendship;

Frail and stooped in his eighty-third year,

This timeless leprechaun

Embalmed in a grey silk waistcoat

Was already walking around death's door ..

And back again, just to be sure

The kettle didn't boil over.

 

A kind of miracle.

At his core the man remained untouched

By a lifetime of the singing clash

Of boilermaker's hammers : Merv was almost deaf.

Violence which once wrenched and crippled

His gateway to the music of the spheres

Now left a querulous inner peace.

"Aark ! Shutup shutup !" squawked his white cockatoo

Unheard, hanging upside down from its perch.

 

Sometimes the cockatoo was right :

The old bugger was a broken record

Jumping the tracks of a music-hall tune;

But how could you get mad

With the merry eye of an historic monument ?

Why, I asked, all innocence one day

Would a tottering fellow in a trilby hat

Go south each month, a hundred miles

To flouncing Sydney town ..?

What's that to a kid like you ? he winked.

Great striptease in Oxford Street.

Wanna' come ?

 

We are the people

Stored in toytown boxes,

Permitted trim green beards of lawn

All wrapped by grids of bitumen;

From far judgment, in the high cold clouds above,

How might an angel's gaze find joy

And damnation amongst the little folk

Way below all glory, putting out the rubbish ?

 

Saluting Edwina, Bessie, Mavis on the sideboard

We sip our tea and guess :

She'd swoop with a rush of certain knowledge

To carry off the crotchety soul of a cockatoo

Hanging upside down, noisily scolding the world,

"Aark ! Watchout watchout !";

But Merve would never know,

Making me crumpets and honey.

 

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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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