The drug man

A cable strung across a room

Songs pegged out to dry / Men
practising music / Rockn
Jaunty / Intense / Guitars
Basses / Voices / I tried

to join in / I tried to peg
my voice to the line / But
it wouldn’t hang / The drug man
practised his drug music / Took

requests for the next bar / The men
followed him to the next bar
to hear him play with his band / I couldn’t
follow the drug man / I had

to take my sick child

(From lemon oil)

both syllables

If bliss is in
the small things

maybe I should stop trying to live
as an artist

and go work in the Post Shop
or at some friendly trade
like answering the phone
or doing the hair of old ladies
Nine to five from Monday to Friday
The boss would call me Jan

At six o’clock I’d give the cat his Dine
Grill some chops or fish
Microwave some vegies or make a salad
After tea I’d watch whatever’s on
while I do the ironing
and sew a seam or two
On Wednesday evenings
I’d do sewing class
The teacher would call me Jan

One nice sunny Saturday
I’d go down to Bunnings
for a plain-packaged husband
Dave, for example

Half the mortgage repayments
Quiet reliable sex
Tight new washers
in every tap
I’d buy him sixpacks
of Target jocks
He’d call me Jan

On Friday nights we’d go out
for pizza or Chinese
with Dave’s mate Matt
and his wife Sue
‘How are ya Jan?’

Once a year
we’d tow our campervans
to Esperance or Kalbarri
Sue and I
would talk and swim
and do crosswords
while Dave and Matt fished
I’d sit on my beach towel
and look at the boats

On Saturdays I’d meet up
with Di and Kath from class
at a Dome cafe
for lunch and a chat
‘How’s things Jan?’

On the other hand

if I keep trying to live as an artist

one day at a book launch
I’ll get talking
to a thin man with a beautiful face
a liberal arts degree
and a job with Amnesty International

Sex with David
would be frequent, creative and loud
he’d write poems about it
I’d buy him guyfront trunks
in organic cotton

On Saturday afternoons David and I
would see a French film
at Luna on Essex
then we’d go dancing at Kulcha

Half the rent paid
Half the meals cooked

On Friday nights
we’d sit out the back
eating noodles and tofu
drinking cheap wine
talking about the history
of gender politics
with David’s friend Rashid
his partner Matthew
and whoever else
happened to be around

Our house would be full
of books and old couches
The taps would drip
and the doors would stick
At night the couches would be occupied
by cats and poets and asylum seekers

all of whom
would pronounce my name
to rhyme with ‘pet’
and try to tell me
what it means

(From lemon oil)

two thin throws

I wake in the dusty light
to the deepcity cockcrow
of traffic and stair-thumping
My bag’s by the wall
My boots are on the floor
My clothes are rumpled all over me
I’m lying under a coat
I found up the road
and two thin throws that I wouldn’t
call blankets

There’s empties on the coffee-table —
cheap beer and unlabelled wine
The damaged guitar I played last night
is propped in a corner
Half-done paintings
hang dim on the walls
A stereo without speakers
sits singing nothing

On the other couch,
the smaller one,
a tall man is sleeping
A gentleman to the last drink,
he wouldn’t let me give him
the bigger couch
He’s squashed up, half-folded,
head on one armrest,
legs over the other
His bag’s by the wall
His shoes are on the floor
His clothes are rumpled all over him
He’s lying under a coat
someone gave him
and two thin throws that I wouldn’t
call blankets

There’s only
three feet of air and two arguing housemates
my hand
and his shoulder

I go upstairs to the toilet,
come back and lie back down
But the light comes in the window
and the cars rush by outside
and my eyes and bones and heart
just will not go to sleep

The man dreams on,
grunting and stirring
Eventually he wakes
Rummages for his phone
to check the time
Drinks water and smokes a cigarette
while I make tea
which he refuses
Takes a piss
in the outside toilet
He needs a shower
and so do I
but neither of us have one
I splash cold water on my face
and try to fix my hair
We put on our coats and walk
to a coffee shop through morning streets
in the bright winter wind

There’s only
three feet of air and the whole fuckin’ world
my eyes
and his

(From lemon oil)

The new thing

That man and I
were standing on the street
with a group of fellow artists
watching a performance.
I stood just in front of him.
He put his hands on my shoulders,
slid them down my arms,
stroked my hands.
I leaned back against him.
He leaned against me.
We didn’t say anything.
He was lightly clothed.
I was naked.
Many of our fellow artists were naked.
He stroked my belly
and began to stroke my breasts.
I leaned into his lust.
There was no choice,
no question,
and no question of choice or question.
The dream became an image
of our genitals,
not joined in the usual way, not fucking,
but making a new shape,
my labia and his penis
combined into one.
It was a new thing.
It was both ugly and beautiful.
We were standing on the street
with a group of fellow artists.

(From lemon oil)