Poetry 2


Eating the Dead

we’d been driving for hours
hadn’t eaten since breakfast
the last of the beers long gone
when I spotted a dead roo in the dust

slid to a stop at the roadside
grabbed a knife and fork off the dash
left to inspect my next meal
‘what the fuck are ya doin?’

yelled Norm, stirred from sleep
head squeezed through the passenger window
‘I’m starving!’ I replied, circling the carcass
‘This looks fresh, tender, ready for eating.’

by now, Norm was at my side, head-scratching
‘Have you gone fuckin’ mad? You’re gonna eat that?’
I was salivating now, the imagined taste of blood and flesh
outweighing the slight smell, the gathering of flies

‘You eat meat,’ I snapped at Norm, ‘at least this is fresh.
The stuff you buy in the supermarket has been dead for weeks!’
I select a tender spot, sink in the knife, but the hide is thick
‘Hey, Norm, get me a sharper knife will ya? There’s one in the esky.’

I don’t hear his reply, just the sound of vomit hitting the bitumen.

Food Court Blues

Merry Fucking Christmas and all that, but there’s a kid
kicking the back of my chair, while his mother ignores
his incessant whining by shovelling more greasy food
into her mouth as she goes on and on about her husband
to another woman, whose own child is complaining that
it doesn’t have enough of whatever it wants and everywhere
I look I see similar scenes, scores of unhappy children
unhappy parents, queued at fast food counters, which are not
quite fast enough, judging by the looks on their disgruntled
faces, my own quest for food ended at a sushi bar, where
I ordered something out of desperation not decisiveness
and now find I cannot open the tiny packet of wasabi sauce
no matter how I rip or chew at its slippery edges, and the look
on my face must mirror that of the waitress cleaning up the
table next to mine, she wears a pixie hat, complete with tinsel
and bell, but the look on her face is one of barely concealed
contempt, she’s pissed off at her boss or her boyfriend, or the
fact that she has to wipe the milkshake and sundae smears from this
table and that this is just one of hundreds in the food court and that
her shift has just started, or she might be pissed off by the Christmas
jingles that permeate the air as if in counterpoint to the insanity of reality
with its ceaseless noise and disorder, and still the kid kicks the back
of my chair and I cannot open this goddamn wasabi packet, and I swivel
around in my chair and make an angry motion towards the kicking kid
with my chopstick, as if I might skewer his eyeball or something just as
graphic and horrifying, but his mother blinks at me cow-like and
vacant as though I might be an apparition, and turns back to her friend
and the endless tirade against her husband, and the kid stops kicking
for a minute or two, while I continue the battle with this wasabi packet
on the brink of giving up, but determined not to be defeated by a tiny
shred of plastic, even though ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ is playing for the fourteenth
time since I’ve been sitting here, and the table next to mine has now been
occupied by a quartet of squabbling teens, all arguing among themselves
while carrying on the same arguments on their mobile phones, and the kid
is kicking the back of my chair again, and any minute now, I’m going to
pick up the food tray, wasabi packet, sushi, Diet Coke and all, and hurl
them across the room while screaming like a lunatic, but know it would
make no difference whatsoever, and that in food courts all around the world
there are people just like me (on the brink, ready to crack, at boiling point
etc etc etc) and that if we were all to do this at the exact same time
it might just cause a slight ripple in the fabric of the cosmos, but soon
enough everything would return to normal, everyone eating, arguing
screaming, shopping, kicking, whining, complaining etc etc etc……


on Monday night, it was still Auntie Barbara
same eyes, same hair, same mouth
although her neck never bent at that angle before

after a couple of 3 a.m. trucks on Tuesday
she was pressed into her floral print dress
and her right arm came off at the shoulder

by Thursday, the shape was no longer human
just some bloodied bumps in the road
some skin, some hair, some bone

on Friday night, it rained
Auntie Barbara was washed into the gutter
even the memory of her flushed into the storm drain.

Slaughterhouse Blues

‘well, I’ve survived another day’, I thought
to myself as I sunk into a seat at the back of the
bus, the thought suspended above me as though
in a cartoon bubble, I thought about this thought
and asked myself, is this what my life has been
reduced to – mere survival? but it was true, for the
first time since my eyes flickered open at 5.00am this
morning, I was not anxious, although, when I awoke
worries lined up in my mind like sheep in a slaughterhouse
– work, house, family, my children, the past, tomorrow an
the day after that, and so on and so forth, until my whole
body was aquiver and my head was filled with white noise
and even the six or so valium I’d taken had not made a
difference, and the multitude of self-help books (yes,
Stephanie, I choose happiness) don’t seem to have
shifted one brain cell in the right direction, and if I were
reduced to rating my days, I doubt if they would rate
above five out of ten, and when the pills don’t work, and
the self-help books don’t work, and the psychiatrist and
the psychologist offer no comfort, what else is there but
drunken oblivion and madness, and as I finally walk in
the front door, the first thing I do, even before taking off
my suit and tie, is pour myself a triple-vodka and lemon
and drink it in one long gulp, then I scrape together some
semblance of a meal (it doesn’t matter, after all, it’s just
me), put on some loud music to drown out the screaming
neighbours (the original vinyl mix of New Order’s ‘Blue
Monday’ – so fucking loud it makes the windows shudder)
and before I sit down to eat, I pour myself another vodka
and gradually the drink and the music and the food begin
to settle me, and I feel at peace for the first time today
and I think to myself (a little sadly, I admit) that if this is
what it takes to survive in this world, if this is as close
as I can get to happiness, then I’m stuck with it – vodka
loud music and the eventual bliss of a drunken sleep.

The Wine

for Luke

it’s late on a Saturday afternoon and, as promised, I have let
the cat into the back-yard to play, but she has curled herself into
a ball on a bed of bark and fallen asleep, it’s a warm afternoon
and I feel a little sleepy myself, as I sip the last of the wine you left,
attempting to leaf through a book of poems, but finding myself
distracted, by the movement of wind through trees, the drone of
passing aircraft, the melancholic sounds of Radiohead filtering
through from the lounge, and before long I find myself thinking of
you, and how normal you make me feel, and how sad it is that we
have spent so little time together in the last twenty years – in some
ways, we are two sides of the same coin, me, with my cautiousness
conservatism and self-consciousness, and you, a wandering spirit, gregarious
outrageous, at ease with your nomadic existence – what is it that has bound
us together all these years? a sense of humour? creative passion? a love of
music? our commitment to individualism? are we opposites attracted? kindred
spirits? soul mates? whatever the case, you are with me always, I can hear
your laughter, your provocative comments, your filthy wit, and with each sip
of this wine you are closer to me, even as you move further away, kilometre
by kilometre towards the dry north you love, but in which I could never survive.


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All images and words © Graham Catt 2018