Larry Buttrose

Larry Buttrose is a poet, playwright, screenwriter, travel writer, novelist and journalist. His most recent books are the novel Sweet Sentence (2001) and the nonfiction work People Who Changed the Modern World: From Einstein to Eminem (2005). He lives in Leura in the Blue Mountains, NSW.

la vie et la mort

A woman walks nowhere in the rain,
folded black umbrella, wonders
whether wrists are best cut
laterally or vertically
and how they do it in films,

tries to recall the comparative strengths
of aspirin and sleeping pills,

debates the exact size of p.v.c. tubing
that will fit the family car.

She walks nowhere in spring tepid rain,
touches new, wet leaves, asks herself
what he’ll miss most – the mother
for the children or the chili con carne;

questions why life and death
are feminine in French,

and laughs at last
at how marriage is always reduced
to shopping lists,
best torn up.

From The Leichardt Heater Journey and Friendly Street No. 3

Fergusson Square

As might a librarian, with a list of frequently misspelt words,
The planners filed this park with care,
Sloped it off, slotted it to a nook, secreted it,
Surrounded it with structures both grand and grotesque:
The rose and prunus are kept strictly in line
And the Roman-columned pergola carries
Only so much creeper as by-laws will permit;

An old woman on a bench, navy and gray,
The spring perfume swells around the form,
Scent thick as her nylons:

The serviceable turf is doubtless cut
By some retired sergeant-major
Who would dream to marshal this wayward sun,
Parry the slow drag of the moon from his roots,
Curse the leaves their annual Somme.

But the green magic is here; in spite of; despite:
Emerges from the places he’s left uncovered
With his blood and bone, sprouts with the fine resolve of horn,
Burns where hair-roots clutch the humus, fires
Where the sharp geometry of garden plots ends;

He could despair at finding no garbage bag big enough
To restrain the sloppy spring within these trunks;
And he could despair his vain attempts to keep at bay
That which makes lovers choose this place to meet,
That which makes this dying woman feel at home

From The Leichardt Heater Journey and Friendly Street No. 5

Mosman Days

A ferry ride to the city is my idea of luxury;
The chaste triangle of sun on the foredeck,
The coils of white-haired rope; the ferry
Is a country town afloat, a place to sleep
Without guilt, listen to the cricket
With your collar open, read, talk, kiss and enjoy it.
This is the world of the gladly half-living, a human
Delegation stationed between the shores of the things
That make the demands, an erasure of worry lines,
Yachts that wheel on a plain of green, each following
The ferry like an albatross, wind rushing by it in silence.

In your Mosman Days you walk the track along the headlands
Past the stone gardens and the blue of the bay
To the park at the point where the ferries dock and depart,
Where people sell each other drugs and buy each other’s sex.
There is the joy, the sight of the city and the sea;
And these are the days you must have lived, days of necessity
If you are to tell the story properly, the days
Before the wind blew and the storm came, when the world
Was an orchard and we were innocent of nausea.

This is the place to fall in love, or be
When the mood strikes. I read your letters
Aloud on deck on the ferry back to Mosman:
I will not leave you, ever, is the promise
We are all allowed, obliged to give, even,
Once at least. I will not leave you, ever,
I wrote back. But it is letters like that
Which get lost in the post,
Are returned unopened, rediscovered years later
In their place in a fold of dishonoured bills
And ferry tokens saved from Mosman Days.

From Tuesday Night Live and Friendly Street No. 7