Barry Westburg

Barry Westburg was a part of Friendly Street at its beginning and remained involved for 17 years. He co-edited No. 13 Friendly St. Poetry Reader [1989], Fifteen Years of Friendly Street: Tuesday Night Live [1993] and published his own collection with Friendly Street: The Fernhouse Cure [1988]. Barry has been a Senior Lecturer at Adelaide University, Chair of the SA Writers’ Centre, and a Fiction Editor with Southern Review. He has also published short stories and a novel and won the Leonard Bell Short Story Award in 1989.

The Silver Earrings in Colorado were like Vivaldi in New York

(I can only get the edge of it)

leaving town we saw Ricardo smoking
a cigar beside the ice-cream parlor
climb with Marge & Larry all
afternoon into a high slant of meadow among
circling played out mines
stop for lunch get
high on a can of Coors
gape at the sky start
                                        unlearning calculus
blue surd sky nothing you can say about it
see a cloud hold over Cripple Creek
it’s all a negative – Ricardo down
in the grids would look up
sleep in the high meadow light with silver
silver sleeping in my pocket
silver out of the veins here for Julia
flat on our backs drift and wake again
stare into the sky find it a lot
the cloud comes over us now
now Cripple Creek lights up
Ricardo steps off the curb throwing
his cigar away
now we start to climb higher up the mountain
silver in my pocket

From The Friendly Street Poetry Reader and Tuesday Night Live

‘they have moved to an island’

they have moved to an island –
on the beach a little house
each has a small bedroom
in the morning they run
out into the sun
two little sisters

in the house their mother sits
in a fancy silk robe
writing at a desk
and she sometimes looks out
sees the yacht in the harbour
– I think she stops to touch
her hair –
as her eyes move to the left
where there’s a photograph
of a cat with one eye open
and next to that there’s a gold-
fish bowl and next to that
a poem about a goldfish
and next to that a copy of a poem
about a cat and next to that
a letter from me
obviously read
many times through

From Friendly Street No. 2

Carmela Remebering

Carmela remembering she is thirty nine years old and
a woman and a woman of a dangerous age. Carmela
remembering her father’s execution: the Santiago city
dump, the instant the bullets hit, a rat jumps out of a
tuxedo. Carmela remembering to pay American Express:
by the first of the month. Carmela remembering Santiago:
not San Diego, not San Quentin. Carmela remembering
how to live day by day: with great simplicity and truthful-
ness in the presence of two Siamese cats, Jascha and Maya,
and the veil of illusion they cast over our 42nd St studio.
Carmela remembering her name in El Norte: not Carmela
nor even Angelica. Carmela remembering Ray Rodriquez:
and the hundred thousand life-size photographs of himself
– always himself – was it narcissism or artistic integrity?
Carmela remembering a little stretch of beach: Carmela
by-the-sea. Carmela remembering her first caramel
ice-cream cone: her ‘lips carminative as wine.’ Carmela
remembering the eye chart in boarding school: but
not the first charmed letter of the last blurred line which
would spell her out in proximity to later lovers. Thus
Carmela remembering, presumably, Fred’s prosthesis. Thus
Carmela remembering what happened (not much) in the
rumble seat of Bad Bob’s black Buick (or awful Andy’s
alfalfa Alpha). But not Carmela remembering to remove
her contact lenses: before taking an overdose of valium.
Carmela remembering uselessly, endlessly: Olivia de
Havilland’s social security number in Snake Pit (1949).
Carmela remembering Aunt Edna: her smoked prairie
chicken and where the wishbone was, and what the
wishbone was for. Carmela remembering Wordsworth’s
recollections in tranquillity: and Proust’s Remembrance of
Things Past, and meeting me down by the weir. Carmela
Remembering that lox and bagels can be bought at only one
shop: in Terra Haute, Indiana. Carmela remembering her
first date with Claude Levi Strauss: how shy he was, how he
fumbled in his pockets for the tip. Sirloin in Dodge City,
goat in Perpignan, dog in Canton, roo in Wagga, and
Carmela remembering those sad Dalmatians, straining at
their leashes. But still, Carmela remembering enjoying
him: ‘making much of him, putting her fingers through the
soft skin of his sides, when he made the muscles hard
underneath, with his body enjoying it with all the thrill and
exactitude of a possessor,’ while in turn becoming
gradually aware of her own torso, while wanting his torso
endlessly with a suspense that had itself become a token or
fact which prevented them from savouring the infinite
approach and the tumultuous close of the forever embrace,
which before midsummer would see her cramming
(perpetually cramming) for her final examination in
animal husbandry. Carmela remembering how to write a
novel: simply but honestly portraying life in the barrios of
Santiago in the late sixties. Carmela remembering her first
scent of tear gas: on the Boulevard Raspail, and the statues
of dead – why are they always dead? – authors. Carmela
remembering very little worthwhile about her brother Sid:
and Lonnie (her ex-) or for that matter Uncle Jake.
Carmel remembering wetting herself: during ‘quiet time’
in second grade and the spelling lesson she had to endure,
while ‘remember’ (the word for the day) was constantly
being erased and rewritten. Carmela remembering the
night flight from Amsterdam: with my old German
grannie and Raoul and Lonnie and several more sad,
straining Dalmatians. Carmela remembering the first time
she got operatically peckish: during the second act of
‘Lucia di Lammermoor’ at the Paris Opera in the company
of a callow American boy from Rhode Island School of
Design. Carmela remembering the second time she go
operatically peckish: during the first act of Carmen at the
Met in the company of a sullen Australian engineer from
the Colorado School of Mines. Carmela remembering not
to: stop and talk with strangers. Carmela remembering,
remembering that she is thirty nine years old and a woman
a woman of a dangerous age. Carmela remembering that
enough is enough: that life cannot be put so easily into
words, a few rude syllables.

From Friendly Street No. 15 and Tuesday Night Live