Wednesday, November 14, 2007
The Boys Are Back In Town
We used to play in the park by the highway
panic and laugh about the cars,
carry our bikes across the railroad tracks,
throw rocks half-heartedly
to try and break a signal-box window,
then run and run and run
hands sticky with blackberries.
You smoked cigarettes, I didn’t.
You knew more about motorbikes.
We both talked about girls.
Talked porno at what we didn’t know
were pre-recorded messages
in the public telephone booth,
laughing to ourselves so sensationally.
Yeah we were champions of the secret life,
could sit in trees and squirt passing cars
with water pistols so nobody knew
what the fuck was going on,
promised to return to our secret carvings
among the branches in ten years of endless time.
Our playground around Broadmeadow
was the storm-water drains we loved when they flooded,
sluicing our ‘pushys’ down through the fake rush of a tide.
‘Don’t go near them now’ instructions were never listened to!
‘Styx Creek’: I couldn’t make a name like that up and be serious.
Yeah that was where we hung out, grey and furious and free like the sky.
So Tony where did the boy go?
How did you bend down into madness
like a peaceful sleep that wrapped you better than
a blanket from the southerly’s cold?
Man, I sit with you at the club over a beer
and we laugh about your passing fits and playing smoke on the water.
You say, ‘I tried to baptize myself in those drains when I thought I was Jesus!’
Then you smile, one tooth missing, drastically fat:
‘Been getting myself off the medication -
I don’t want to have to live with it.’
Some living man.
Where did the pretty boy that you were go?
The one that blonde girls chased
through their blue, cool polaroids,
listening to ‘Young American’
while we dreamed of being you?
The whole thing snapped.
You gave away your watch to her.
There was no replacement.
Your exercise books were filled with tiny words
that you told me you were ‘learning’.
The one that kicks in television sets,
runs naked down his street,
says his prayers at traffic lights:
who is he in the stop-go scratchy dawn?
Hey Tony, there’s still another way…
on our bikes, out in the rain,
you riding with a broken leg in plaster,
Thin Lizzy on the record player way up loud,
the shimmer of ‘Still In Love With You’
on your bright red buzzing guitar.…
God it seemed to burn from your fingertips
when you let it run.
Yeah Tony, where did the boy in you go?
Now these crackups of yours that come about once a year
to rest your weary soul,
it’s like some escape clause, I just know it
but it gets harder for you to come back
from the white and wordy shuffle of your mind.
It has to end.
And sure enough I make a Christmas call to your mum,
Raving at me in her Italian rosary of unreason,
she tells me: ‘Tony, he is gone to hospital. He is finished now.
He won’t be no good no more.”
Click. The dial tone death.
The nostalgia for a life I can’t properly remember
without you talking too.
Here, it’s all through me, what I have of it.
Oh man, where did the boy go?
Do you even know it’s summer now again,
that twenty years have passed and our branches are bones,
that our names are still there like wounds healing?
That a dry sheer curtain pale as a ghost
just blew over me as I sat slumped beneath the window,
its blurring frost burying my face like a bride.
- Mark Mordue
* This poem was first published in ILUMINA Poetry UnLimited Press Journal 2007 with thanks to Editor Roberta Lowing and Guest Editor Judith Beveridge.