Germaine Greer at Heathrow

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Selected poems


From the North Country

He loped into the terminal at Prince Rupert,

a tall gum tree, bush accent piercing.

We looked at each other, laughed, thought alike.

Not so worldly as we chose to believe,

our trek to Alaska testing, we hooked up with him.


Below deck, skint, we seized a saloon table,

nursed two beers four hours, laughter extracting

toxic looks from a waiter coveting our space

for tipping patrons, not unwashed backpackers,

a word orgy, a bullshitting kookaburra cabal.


In seaspray we slept, vessel yawing, fog folding us

in damp dreams on deck, through the Inside Passage,

waking to watchful indigenes, bow wave reaching

them in eerie light, their presence etched

in my own vision splendid that can never be again.


He turned up, back in Oz, early in our decline,

like a war buddy landed on his feet in Darwin,

a travel veteran now betrothed to a Texan.

We didn't make it to the wedding, too far to go.

He takes me by surprise, my Clancy of the Overflow.



Germaine Greer at Heathrow 

Imagine a painting in the style of Jeffrey Smart,

a bare airport terminal, a well-known woman.

Compositionally, the woman stands near the edge

as do Smart's figures/friends in some pictures.

Space, stillness, surrounds her in a banal setting,

a desolate reminder of de Chirico, Hopper,

stark emptiness, their echoic sense of regret.


Barely the breakfast hour, the jetlagged scarpered,

I watch bags, my partner changing money,

lean against a pillar, focus on a lone woman

who looks sad across all that emptied space

as though disappointed a dear face hadn't shown.

She smokes, or she doesn't, looks straight at me.


I once read The Female Eunuch among books forgotten,

the only bloke taking a course on feminism,

admired Greer's chutzpah, knew she lived in England

where I came to dwell on the edge of belonging.

I mourn unplanned lives, mine, others', back stories,

each of us carrying private clouds of sadness.

What happened next, that distant dawn?


Photoshop the picture. Now see two figures.

A man with luggage, that woman.

So much space, possibility. Time stilled.

He tells her, imagine, about a book he liked.




Fortified by photographs we flock for tickets

like a theatre crowd, Mad King Ludwig's castles'

ethereality whirring our Tinker Bell wings,

our childish fantasy of spires sky reaching.


Fifty million have ogled this gilded fairytale,

the grandeur in stone of Verlaine's 'only true king'.

Pious, overrun by the Prussians, our puppet king

loved dress-ups. Television would have loved him.


Nocturnal Ludwig rode noisy Wagner's bandwagon,

and an elaborate sleigh, enrobed as a chieftain

of the Middle Ages, part of the architectural mix,

his other favourite the House of Bourbon.


My thrill on first seeing the photographs overturned

boyish disbelief that fabulous could be real.

Though I grew to resent egotistic eccentricity,

here I am, sheepish in Bavaria, eulogising dreams.



Yukon Dreaming

Packs against a roadwork sign, Danger, shoulder soft,

A tableau vivant: a tent, all they have inside them.

They argue, rehearsal for unimagined waning days.

He holds up their Rand McNally with his sketch,

a black-outlined big red kangaroo taped to the back,

lure for lonely drivers vectoring British Columbia

to screech to a pine-scented stop for hitch-hikers

who can't foresee what loss the rush of years holds.

He wants to claim reaching the Klondike, or Alaska,

Amundsen planting his flag beneath heaven's vault.

A Winnebago with Texas plates cruises by,

brakes lighting up their immediate hours,

conifer mileage, big sky, postcard outpost names.

They climb aboard into blessed cool luxury.

The woman passenger swivels her seat,

rotating 180 as if in an office movie.

Her man driving, she asks, Where y'all from?

He almost wiggles his marsupial mutely as a joke,

but realising she is serious, starts babbling

about the baleful beauty of this craving for quests,

weeks of risky responsibility, short-term relief.

His wife irrupts, reprising her summer of discontent.

He bites back, all shred of manners jettisoned.

Their benefactors' pregnant silence pulls them up.

Chagrined, he apologises, love's nuances complex.

Oh no, the woman protests. That was wonderful.

Your accents. Hearing you just the way you are.



Ian C. SmithIan C. Smith lives in the Gippsland Lakes region of Victoria. His work has appeared in, Australian Book Review, Australian Poetry Journal, foam:e, Rabbit Journal, The Weekend Australian, &, Westerly. His seventh book is wonder sadness madness joy.

Topic tags: Poetry, Ian C. Smith, Germaine Greer


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Germaine Greer at Heathrow - it's rather haunting, isn't it.
Pam | 26 February 2018

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