Poem to Forget about Love
Like a galah flying over
The Swan Coastal Plain, from hills
And granite breakaways,
From tall marri and jarrah
From firebreaks, and English dams,
From the Brixton St wetlands,
And the Serpentine Falls
Where the gilgies hatch their eggs,
And the jiddy jiddy keep their eyes
On the protectors, those who work
With the land, like a galah
Using their faned-tail to balance
On a powerline during a vicious front.
I return from the scarp, loaded
With valueless presents, my thoughts
And feelings, and an irrational sense
Of optimism, and go for a long walk —
I became one of those weirdos who run
Through the centre of town, with my shirt on,
Of course, I’m not that weird,
And, huffing, pull up outside her work,
And pretend to read the black menu
Covered in perspex and peer through the window,
Hoping she’s there, hoping to see her once more.
But I’m glad she isn’t — in the end
I am a kind of weirdo,
My intrigue has me obsessed
My intrigue and my intrigue alone has me blinded,
Because she might not have given me
Another thought, she might have
Rearranged the table number on the silver stand,
Silver like a galahs feather
And knocked off, returned home
To her partner, to her love filled house
And nearly reported a little tale
About this intense guy who came
Into her work and ordered a vanilla thick shake,
And shook her hand and smiled
And who mistakenly took that as a sign
That she liked him, that his spirit
From walking on the land
Had found some place inside her
That his channeling of the galah
Spirit let him stand out from the others.
He was the one who saw the echidna
And said ‘her name is D’,
He was the one who saw the wallabies and said,
‘Hello, her name is D’.
Who ran after the emus with their shimmering rachis,
Shouting, ‘her name is D, her name is D’,
And who re-entered The Hamburger Restaurant
And ordered another thick shake,
Because he can’t eat burgers — he can’t eat animals
Can’t eat the flesh off those he loves,
And who he runs after telling them tales,
Telling the cockatoos and cows that he loves them.
Maybe she kept the story secret.
From her partner or her best friends,
Because she didn’t want any connection to be true,
There was a fleeting moment, that’s all,
Nothing to follow up, no reason
To feel like we belonged together in some way:
Two galahs flying high above the canopy,
Straffing on gusts and calling to one another:
Where are you? Where are you?
You know what I start doing,
I start selling myself,
I start packaging myself up,
As if I were a hamburger,
As if I could be packaged
In a certain way, in order for you
To make sense of me, my past,
And where I might predictably go in the future.
At times, in certain circumstances
I long to listen to other languages
To meter out the emotion
And to ignore the words meaning,
To hear the cadence and intonation
But to ignore how the words intend
That way I can make up my own logic
From the elapsed signature of speech.
These infatuations feel like an illness.
They begin in my imagination
And reach out into my hands
And cross my chest diagonally,
And they keep me awake
Even when I’m exhausted
From walking 140km in two days.
I stay awake compounding
The infatuation until the ‘other’
Cannot possibly fulfil any fantasy
Because they’re my fantasies
And they grow with my longing
And as my longing grows
I dig a pit in my stomach
That makes me feel ill
Makes me feel cramped around my torso
Like my ribs are cracked
And I’m being disciplined for my stupidity,
For believing that love can exist,
Even temporarily, for as long
As longing can be in your eyes
Or on your tongue, these words
That rub against your teeth
Must find an outlet.
In the morning, after putting my dirty clothes
In the machine and saying hello to Olive
The dog who licks my feet and shakes her tail
And stares at me as I walk up the stairs,
In the morning I turn my obsession
With writing, and reading and walking,
Which are all really the same thing,
The same middle-class preoccupations,
To the woman at the Hamburger Restaurant,
My brain makes way for a new obsession:
Turn the coffee machine on, (woman
At the hamburger joint), read two lines
From Wittgensteins Novel’s, (woman
At the hamburger joint), scratch my forearm,
(Woman at the hamburger joint). My brain
Plays ping pong with the woman, D,
From the hamburger joint, who, perhaps,
Doesn’t even think of me, doesn’t see me
And most probably doesn’t get obsessed
With strangers and phantoms, the woman, who
In all likeliness has a control of her emotions,
(Woman at the hamburger joint), isn’t crazy
Like you, Jimmy, she knows what she wants,
She isn’t capricious and romantic, you fool.
I must, in order to continue on the track I started,
The days before the woman at the hamburger
Joint became an episode, I must diminish
In my thoughts her stature, I must take her down
From the pedestal I have placed her on,
There in the hamburger joint, and I must, in order
To continue as before, belittle her,
For she is but a common waitress
A waitress among millions, billions
Of other waitresses who serve hamburgers
And sandwiches and coffee and thick shakes
The world over. I am so fickle that today
I could meet another woman who works
In a hamburger joint and fall head over heels
Obsessed with her as well, drowning in a sea
Of my own making — drowning
Like someone who never learned to swim
And who takes to the diving board
And plunges headlong into an Diving
Pool named Obsession, and who suffers
Like a drowned, wet, fool, because of the woman
At the hamburger joint.
I had a pen and a book.
And I wanted to mark the book
With the pen, to draw a line
Next to the text that I wanted
To return to, wanted to extract
And even, maybe, wanted to remember.
But deep down I didn’t want a pen.
I wanted a pencil.
I needed a pencil as well as a pen.
A pencil to draw a line next to parts
I wasn’t sure I needed, and a pen
To draw a vertical line next to the lines
I was sure of.
I could not speak to the book.
The book spoke to me,
In certain ways and those ways
Could not be altered or changed,
Only highlighted, so as to draw
The attention of my eye
When that page was open.
Unsure, and peppered with doubt,
I needed a pencil
Because you could reject me and if you rejected me
I could go back to the book
And erase every line I drew vertically
Beside the paragraphs.
And thus erase you from my memory,
And erase the shame of my behaviour.
But I only had a pen
And the permanency hurt.
I was vulnerable and clumsy.
I had lost my cool.
I had become someone
Who you read about, not someone
You know, someone who no longer
Lived their days as if on a stage,
As if he was an actor about to switch
Out of character once the curtains drew closed.
I only had a pen. And. I went
And bought more pens
In case the ink ran out.
These loose threads, these structureless days
Now fall under the sway
Of the burning suffering desire,
An addiction to an un-manifest
Ride that’s hiding the puppeteer.
I can just make out the strings,
Can you see them? The light has to be just right,
There. Yes. now you see.
Don’t cut the threads.
The threads hurt, but without the puppeteers,
Without the strings that pull us into the uncertain,
Empty future, we are lost — we have to make
Up own own minds, we have to go with our own hearts,
And then we have to feel what’s in our hearts
And without strings and threads pulling us along,
Our feelings are disorientated,
And soon we don’t care what’s in our hearts,
And when we have no care, we never run for the bus or the train,
Without strings, thoughts of suicide
Ride in our bloodstream, without strings we grow dirty roots
And those roots dig deep, deeper than we want
Deeper than we can handle,
Deeper than the night is dark,
And longer than the night is long,
And, when we have had enough,
When we have cried and cried,
And when we have snot running into our mouths,
And when we are weak,
And hold our heads with our hands
Wrapped over our skulls
We ask for our strings to be reattached.
Bahrain, she said, as she made me another vanilla thick shake.
Six years, she said, since she and her parents moved here.
And then I asked if she would like to go out with me,
And she said she had a boyfriend and I said Nooooo,
And then, clearly, an obstacle needed to be overcome,
And I gave her my number and said to send me a text and that I won’t be an arsehole.
And I could see that she was figuring out a way of breaking up with him.
I hoped she was figuring out a way of breaking up with him.
And for some reason, I know not why, with the thick shake in hand,
I walked up the leafy mall, and some dude was playing
Stairway to Heaven, and a long white limo sat outside
The town hall and a pigeon pecked about my yellow thongs,
And I saw in a shop window of The Ugg Australia shop
Seven R M Williams left boots on plastic stands and some guy
Came up and looked at them and I wanted to tell him,
I wanted to say Save your bickies, my friend, these boots,
They say they’re the best, but they’re not the best, the best boots
Are made overseas, the best boots are not the ones you’re about to buy
No matter what the clerk tells you, and, get this, I tell him,
Before he goes into the store to waste his money on second rate boots,
Get this, the woman from Bahrain doesn’t know the best boots either,
She doesn’t have a clue what the best boots are, and it’s not her fault,
Really it’s not her fault, and the man looked at me like I had lost my mind,
Like I had lost my grip on reality, and really I had. I really had.
This was no way to spend a Tuesday afternoon, I thought,
Falling in love with a woman who has a boyfriend,
As a paper straw wrapper lodged under my yellow thong.
How long are you staying in Perth for? I asked.
She said she didn’t know.
D asked if I could go anywhere where would I go?
And I said I haven’t traveled enough to answer that question,
And she said Neither have I, and I said I have to go and finish
The Pacific Crest Trail and she said She doesn’t know
Any of these trails as her skin gets burnt
And she has to cover up her body and I tuned out,
I wasn’t having any of this obfuscation —
We would walk together one day, I was certain —
For she knew I was the one and she asked me what my favourite colour
Was and I said Black and she said she didn’t have a black straw
And then she asked me if I wanted red, pink, orange, green
And I said green and she said Good choice.
And if she didn’t have a boyfriend we would be going out together right now
But if she didn’t have a boyfriend she wouldn’t be working at the hamburger joint
And she wouldn’t be studying yoga neither
And if she didn’t have a boyfriend I would probably have a girlfriend
And then I would be the one who had to choose
And that would be harder for me than her, that’s for sure
If you didn’t have a boyfriend would you say Yes to going out with me?
The moral quandary is yours and yours to carry and the truth won’t let you rest
And your feelings won’t lie
And your smile can’t lie
And I’m happy I could be myself
With you even after you broke the news
That you have a boyfriend
Because if I couldn’t be myself then I would know I was on the wrong path.
And that’s what I was doing — harrassing a poor girl while she’s at work —
Was wrong. And I should stop going to her work to do my work,
And I knew that if I felt like I was being a weirdo
I should stop and never re-enter the doors,
Never set foot in that building again to order a vanilla thickshake.
-J. P. Quinton
The headlights shine to the left.
I follow two red dots.
A small stone cracks the windscreen.
In Pinjarra I give an ETA
And recall riding, riding, riding
Back when I had to run.
Inside she is behind the front wall.
She senses in me her own
Disappointment, I’m undatable
Were her words, before she deleted
What little of us we had.
I’m not sure what she thought
I was looking for, as two bowls
Of half eaten salad sat between us,
But what I saw were these eyes
And inside was a fire trying
To extinguish itself, a light
More intense than I’ve ever witnessed
A colour colliding, shattered
And slaughtered by red
That stuck across her iris
And bit deep into her pupils
That said she was barely able to cope;
That her illness didn’t care
For my sympathy and that soon
She would have to leave.
Walking Goals on the Pingerup Plains
For twenty five years
I was locked out,
as if I’d snapped the key
off in the lock.
Beside me, my happy self.
Inside me, a monster and the dark room.
Out on the Pingerup Plains
loneliness ate at my feet
and there, as the leaf litter
sprang from the stepped-on twig
I could prove myself to my dark room,
I could fester and requiem.
What was distant was rest.
What was easy was distant.
I judged every thought,
I damned every thought with judgement,
and counted my steps.
My body needed pain to feel
and after mud and heath and brume
the blister puss splattered in my eye
and I pressed outside the slit
to let the wound suppurate.
The gear was fine, my body uninjured
but I had found something missing
I knew the victory I’d wanted would be hollow,
my traffic was gone, my blood
unclogged. My heart beat loud.
A fine mist made an answer;
pointless to ascend to the summit,
the cockatoos stayed put,
kangaroos didn’t stir,
my ears rang as if covered in wool,
the waitress at Two Rubens Cafe
told me: a tradesman is free from obsession, you’re not.
To walk to the highway on my own terms
was the right thing to do
you don’t have to be brave
those reams written, they un-write,
as the woman with MS drives me to Denmark
and she tells me of brain legions
and her broken immune system,
how the knife is so blunt,
the edge grows brighter
where the leaf cutter bee
says goodbye to Broke Inlet,
as I wave at the ocean and have a morning nap.
– J. P. Quinton