Things (2019)

Coffee three dollars sixty while
my washing’s in the laundromat
Six dollars a wash plus one
for a plastic tub of detergent
We recycle them, the attendant proclaims

The washer can do nine kilos
but I don’t own three weeks’
worth of clothes, only one
I need my dressy tops next week
Working four mornings, smart casual

Kathy, whose house I’m living in,
has sold her washing machine
She’s building a place in a new
subdivision, wants a washer-dryer
And those are expensive, she says

I carry my wet things back to her house,
hang them on the drooping Foldaline
There’s plenty of sun, as usual
Crossing the highway on the footbridge
I can see a fire on the horizon

When I was working in China
parcels kept arriving at the office
If it’s useful and cheap,
said our American,
I’ll buy it

His favourite pastime was Taobao
One time he ordered a gadget
to hang up under a shelf
to facilitate pulling out tissues
from their plastic packets

When his landlord wanted him out
he took several days to move
Carried his possessions bag by bag across the streets
Chelsea would have helped you, I said
She has a car

Today I could have knocked on a door
and asked to borrow a washer
I might have been offered tea,
a seat at the kitchen table,
maybe even a phone number

Kathy’s Hyundai pulls in at five
She dumps her bag of reports and flops
on the pale grey leather
of her new bespoke sofa
I get so tired, she says

I light the gas, steam rice,
tofu, vegetables, hand her a plate
I sit with her watching
Antiques Roadshow, its hopefuls and experts
We marvel at all the intricate things

the Victorians and Edwardians bequeathed
If I had that, I say, I could sell it
and spend the money on a holiday
or stay at home and make nothing
but art for a year

or donate the cash to the Climate Council
or Extinction Rebellion, or the Carbon
Neutral Charitable Foundation, who
are bravely planting native trees,
trying to cool things down

First published in Creatrix 51, December 2020

The things I’ve learned

How to appear simultaneously in Melbourne, London and Perth.
How to check the news, briefly, once a day.
How to buy two weeks’ food at once.
How to use less toilet paper.
How to wash my hands.
How to sprout beans.
How to bake bread.
How to be alone.
How to relax.
These are the things I’ve learned.

First published in Written in the Time of COVID19, Shire of Nillumbik, October 2020

Observed constraints

This house I am temporarily inhabiting has so many walls.
We fought for our freedom to build.
Difference between a wall and a fence: you can see through a fence.
Which is crueler?

This is nonsense; this is a lie; this is a paradox; this is a theorem.
Once I got free I wanted back inside.
In the prison things were calmer after the razor wire was installed.
You have to know the gate and how to get a key.

I will not call them laws; I will call them observed constraints.
I could climb it without much difficulty.
Freedom is the fluid swirl of a complex system obeying its mathematical laws.
Dignified persons do not climb it.

In my old country some people are remembering how to build the old walls.
Everything we build is subject to entropy.

First published in Creatrix 50, Septembeer 2020