A Serbian Cemetery in Country Victoria

It was surprising, the grand brick church sat at the end of the remote boulevard
A little slice of the Balkans, beyond Melbourne’s south western suburbs

There seemed to be no one around, except the puffing groundswoman who was moving flowers from patch to pot
Inside, wrapped in silence, we crossed our hearts while she took us back in time
Old habits evident and superstitions including walking backwards out of the door

In a messy little nook around the corner we burned votive candles
There had been a fire in the church so now they kept them away from the pulpit
I lit two, for my parents, but I didn’t ask about the other one burning

Back out the gate we followed the dog-leg road to the community cemetery
A pair of smiling ladies were cleaning graves, washing marble with holy water
They come every Saturday, praising young love where they see it

On the headstones (many garish) are head shots – all model relatives
Near the entrance was a fresh mound of earth
Another baba interred, waiting with infinite patience for the full regalia

More rows had appeared from the last visit so it took a minute to find our place
When we did, we poured our own libations
Setting in vases the small orange roses that we bought at the beach

I left the two of them alone, walking to the tree-line
In the fading light, the magpies were in dogfight flight
Swooping from their eeries

White-tailed rabbits were holding inter-paddock summits
Keeping up their end of the pact to re-populate the planet
While all around them, rock-like sheep chewed grass

Over the opposite green field, where the sacred stones sat, came the sound of folk music
So the men were there after all, circling an old radio, playing backgammon and smoking cigarettes
I couldn’t tell you what brand they were (maybe Dunhill) — the war-torn butt I saw in the rusty urinals was sodden and faded

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What a Sound the Sea Makes

It sounded like tearing sheet metal when the wave broke
Another offcut ribboned from an aluminium sea and left on the sand
Behind us, the blue cloud was banking and bruised
Hiding the Kilamangiro that couldn’t be there
Finding a short stick we mapped a rough outline of the bay
Using our memories as sounding weights
We zoomed in on the long, eroding beaches down the coast
Where we jumped from rocks in between swells, falling faster than spit
As the rain began to wet the top of our shoes, we washed the orange juice from our fingers
And chose the steepest path back up the hill to the house, to the pot of hot coffee
At the escarpment’s top, a shove of wind—the kind that had felled bigger trees than us
The proof at our feet, a splintered trunk laying heavy in the pine needles
A stone-like Ozymandias, now fuel, all transitioning power
What a sound chagrin makes
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What’s Mine is Mine

A place is someone’s when they’ve fought hardest for it
When they’ve left skin on the streets
Wept tears in the gutter
Spent money over the bar
Made love in its beds
It’s not just how long, but how you’ve lived

After Melbourne’s Coldest Weekend

This dark chill is theft—daylight robbery
The sun roped up in the back of the van
Our good humours gone with it

To a human we’re phlegmatic, melancholy
And no draft is too crafty
No teeth or bones too still

They say it’s a vortex that’ll last the week
And eBay is selling out of finger-less leather gloves
But we’ll get up anyway

And at night, well, we probably won’t think of those in bed alone
But we should
God knows it was me once

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Blood Is All I Can Think About

Old blood that was in me soaks a hand towel on the bathroom floor
New blood is being made, though it’s blue and too much of it is in one place
That same blood that’s within me races in her presence
A rapid tattoo loud in my ears
This blood went cold when he called
Pumping slow and thick through his heart instead
My family blood that is me will soon be in another
Maybe it will have superpowers

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On A Sunday, Hearing Hymns

Down the road and round the corner
Hymns break strong and bright
The father he looks down on them
The son casts yellowy light

A little girl, stood small near mum
Questions why, and how
And underneath the learned sun
Says she, “that’s how it is, for now”

Dying leaves fall from branches
As faith feathers their wings
But after omnipotent winter
They’ll live again with spring

Father, son, mother, daughter
Life will fill the nest
But it never hurts to say your thanks
Each weekly day of rest

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Dear Mum

I just found a little lonely blue feather under a pine tree on a nine-hole golf course just outside of Melbourne.

We’re here for a friend’s 30th birthday and hunting mushrooms in the dark, damp needle beds—Slippery Jacks. Toadstools. And irregular growths that bruise easily.

Too few and nothing happens, too many and everything can happen, all at once.

Today we’ll hit balls around the property. Fuzzy yellow ones, and small, hard, pockmarked ones.

That’s before we stay up all night and then play musical beds all morning.

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Staring East at Macedon

A crazy horse strums
As two fantails splash in the fountain
Beading streams from its edge
And trees warble in the wind
Calling across the rose garden
Shaking petals to its bed
Through the matrimonial threshold
Runs a neat row of rosemary
Its arms telegraphed with spider webs
Lit white in the sun

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