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St Patrick's Ballarat

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Tony London |  12 February 2017

 

Selected poems

 

St Patrick's Ballarat

 

Outside

on the steel railings

the coloured ribbons

tied with love and hate,

flap listlessly in the light

summer breeze, images

of regret and loss,

brightness and hope.

 

At the rear on

the deserted bitumen

alleys and parkways,

between the retired priests'

caves, with blinds drawn,

the young boys

ride their clever scooters

up and down the slopes,

with cries of exultation,

as they explore

the silence

with the energy of

uncomplicated

innocent

childhood.

 

 

Ballarat Kiddywinks

 

It is a struggle

to find the most

appropriate image.

 

I had thought of

a smooth round

partly submerged

in the earth,

granite dome,

some lichen,

glows in the

winter sun,

comforting.

 

Men come with

crow-bars

dig at the edges,

pieces of granite

shear off, revealing

little. More men, more

crow-bars, more chips,

more frustration.

Rock looking

worse for wear,

ambience now

slightly damaged.

Move on to

the next rock

say some.

 

Then the 'dozer, D9 or

similar, the rock shudders

then gives way, is

upended and all of

the worms, cockroaches

and other crawling

things are revealed

in the damp oozing earth.

The crowd looks on,

faces of disappointment,

strained expressions,

their dreams and their

beliefs now questioned and —

anyway, whose idea was it

to disturb the rock?

 

The gold in Ballarat

has long gone.

 

Another simple image

comes from boyhood

when fireworks were for

sale and the main currency,

'best bang for your buck',

was the 'penny bunger'.

 

Placed in the appropriate

moist cow pat, it would

blow shit everywhere in

a bright green circle.

Those in the know ran

quickly and with a sense

of timing, and the ridiculous

mixed with some irony,

and luck to be in the right

place at the right time.

Should that be the wrong

place at the wrong time?

 

Don't choke on the clichés,

beware the cutting edge of satire.

 

The truth lies buried

in a hole somewhere.

 

 

Gap in the fence

 

Ivy hedges are interrupted by

a gap toothed grey wooden

interlude where light is let

through and a limited narrative

presents itself in the afternoon

light, leaning this way and

that. Bees are busy in the ivy

and the timber looks precarious

at best, and an excuse at worst.

The chimneys of various shapes

and sizes on the priest's houses

next door, have not spumed

since the winter, and in and

around St Patrick's things like

that might seem symbolic. Will

fires ever be lit there again — lest

the people speak — the ribbons

spliced up and down the wrought

iron railings, rattle in the brisk

autumn breeze, telling stories of

love, suffering and endless

disharmony, broken trust, send

messages to those in the passing

traffic, paused only for the traffic

lights — better the devil you don't

know, smiling faces dancing on

dark graves in winter, old men

stirring coffee in neighbourhood

cafes, remembering when — for

two shillings, or an ice cream,

innocence and silence could be

traded, children with one arm

up behind their back, smiling —

a grimace become a learned smile —

would give frightened assent through

clenched teeth — and the earth

never paused on its axis and the only

shuddering was self-gratification,

subsequent anonymous tears.

 

Why is that victims

are still viewed with

suspicion and ... . let's

face it ... they could

have called out sooner,

pointed the bone — but

now — after all of this time

are the dredges digging

in the swamp again,

bringing to light

the subterranean

black soutaned sludge.

 

No game, this blame,

played from unequal

standpoints. There are

no winners in this

lay down misère.

 

 

Football books Ballarat

[Couldn't find the poetry section]

 

No smell of mud, rosin,

Eucalyptus oil, liniment,

just clean pics of teams

lined up, fists pushing out

their biceps, seated and

standing, in team strips, in

front of grand old stands,

black and white for a sense

of time's passing. A close

up lens of modern players

reveals retired faces to

accompany the enlightened

text of modern liberated

footballers, men who know

the socially acceptable

language, how to sell

books, and themselves,

media savvy guys,

politically correct.

 

No words can protect

the reader from the reality

of a picture of Jack 'Blood'

Dyer, formerly of Yarra Glen,

giving a St Kilda player a

friendly greeting across the

side of his face. It is as famous

as is the later Nicky Winmar

pic, [another Saint] jumper

pulled up, to reveal a 'chocolate'

solar plexus, [we all love a bit

of chocolate].

 

The books, like their clubs — all

liveried up — call out for attention.

I replace on the shelf, 'The Tigers

Under Hafey', and leave behind

Longy, Lloydey, Feltcher, Murphy,

Juddy ... et al, whom I have got

to know this lingering, malingering

hour amongst the tribal recollections,

where words and pics compete like

raucous crowds, for my attention,

as the games are re-lived in the mists

of memory, the strong winds

blowing the ball back over

the head of the full-back

at the kick-out line.

 

But that's another story.

 


Tony LondonTony London has had poetry published in various literary journals around Australia, in national and state newspapers and broadcast on the ABC. He has worked for the last twelve years as a self-funded volunteer for Tibetans in India. His commissioned book on the Tibetan diaspora, High Hopes, was published by the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, in Dharmsala, India, in August of last year.

 


Tony London

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Comments

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Submitted comments

why poetry matters.

Pam 13 February 2017

Not a criticism, but as an interstate sport imbecile I find it odd how often Victorian football arcana find their way into ES pieces on serious matters. I suppose most of the readers "get it"; not me.

OldG 14 February 2017

Imagery that hits the spot! Perhaps Old G your religion is not AFL.

john frawley 14 February 2017

Heart-felt, painful, brilliant! Brought tears to my eyes. Thank you, Tony.

John 14 February 2017

Perhaps St Patrick's should be turned into a 'Port Arthur' type site, a memorial to those that suffered, a reminder of the cruelty of which the leaders of any society are capable, and a call to each of us stand up against any abuse of power wherever it occurs.

Ginger Meggs 16 February 2017

Your poem, St Patricks, gives the reader so much to think about. It's as much about what you don't say, as what you do.

Jane 16 February 2017

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