the s-word

1. subs
I was once a sweet suburban parcel 
four-squared, sub-divided 

sown in summer colour and 
persistent disquiet

footy clubs, schoolboys and husbands
hurrying home for tea, for TV, fatigued.
sprinklers soaking dust tic-a-tick-a-tick. Backyard 
pools the stink of status anxiety and warm chlorine.  

an arm thrown over, cicadas, The Southerly 
slamming screen doors and so help me

spitting, bus passes, sex as a whisper
of the world we suspected was ever elsewhere.

we were subs, just subs to a city a day away 
and weren’t we glad to get home.

2. the s in drugs
best friend was a saint, a scab, got sad got on the scag 
started stealing, seeing a stock broker, went mad

shot up and went down under the 5.00 pm train;
flakes and stains on the rails all that remains.

3. the s in history
this was once citrus and stone fruits. before? 
sure, in this land land’s always in someone’s hand.

now the milk bar’s a liquor-mart, the chemist a nail studio
the submarine memorial is rank with weeds and the names of drowned sailors 

4. shopping centre
a woolworths, under cover, a multi-floor department store, 
citadel where we come to smoke and steal and out-smart security

and centred in the centre – the rain drop fountain 
fat drops slide down nylon lines from an electric high

symbol of our persistence, our resistance, our suburban lives
proscribed along parallel lines vanishing into some sunken sauna 

mists over sub-tropical leaves. 
restless water, water on the move, pumped behind the vinyl banquette.  

5. reprise (once a sub)
In the dream I pull my shirt aside and there’s superman’s s – 
says it stands for peace, but I know 

beneath that bullet-proof shield, there’s a tat-a-tat-a-tat of the sprinkler,
the screen door, and my nylon-held heart rain sliding down.

Image: Jaquelinee Martinez on Unsplash Tonight, I’m hosting the bar at Dverse, the poets pub and we’re focussing on sound in poetry. Come join the fun. Some suburban recollections of growing up in a Sydney suburb (Carlingford, NSW). And for those of you unfamiliar with the raindrop fountain as a thing … (images c/- Glenn H, Flickr – Roselands Shopping Centre, 1966)

And in keeping with the melancholy mood here’s Debussy’s Clair de Lune played by John Chen.

30 thoughts on “the s-word

  1. Very beautifully written with astounding imagery. Love these lines:

    “symbol of our persistence, our resistance, our suburban lives
    proscribed along parallel lines vanishing into some sunken sauna

    mists over sub-tropical leaves.
    restless water, water on the move, pumped behind the vinyl banquette.”

    Mind-blowing poetry here. Amazing!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Cor. Read this twice whilst chomping my morning toast with Marmite. It feels both familiar and foreign. Those malls; trains; chemists … but mostly that tic-a-tick-a-tick sound which I heard for the first time in Mystery Road a few weeks ago. Funny how something like a sprinkler can feel foreign. Nice bit of writing, Peter.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree with Misky.. this feels so familiar and still very different… one of the first shopping centers in Sweden was built close to where I grew up, so some of that fantasy (and the pictures seemed so familiar) Loved the sounds (not just the s:es but also the rhymes/rhythms of parts like this

    a saint, a scab, got sad got on the scag
    started stealing, seeing a stock broker, went mad

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m with Misky and Björn – this was all so familiar but exotic at the same time. It must have something to do with the long relationship between the UK and Australia, and years of watching Australian soaps with my daughter when she was growing up. I love how you structures it around the letter ‘s’ and all that sibilance that seeps through the stanzas. I smiled at ‘sweet suburban parcel’ and the (for me) exotic:
    ‘sprinklers soaking dust tic-a-tick-a-tick. Backyard
    pools the stink of status anxiety and warm chlorine.’
    The shopping centre was the most familiar scene for me, but I really love the reprise.
    The weirdest shopping centre I have ever visited was in Wroclav in Poland. It had shops with clothes from the fifties and sixties.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow, this is an incredible journey through sound, through personal and general history, through philosophy. The audio really brings out the sound-quality of the poem, as your accent is attuned to the words you chose.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Some very nice, if disturbing imagery here, painting a realistic view of the world we have created, or rather let fall apart:
    ‘now the milk bar’s a liquor-mart, the chemist a nail studio
    the submarine memorial is rank with weeds and the names of drowned sailors’.
    Well done.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Lawn sprinklers. Is there anything more emblematic of suburbia?

    I saw a video of Wuhan, a corrective to the idea that is was a gigantic slum with hectares of live food markets. It was space age, like Blade Runner with all the lights on, and those fountains but high as Niagara Falls. Those kind of places give me the shivers. Your memories are homely and a bit dusty. I could cope with those.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh my, you endeavored, and succeeded in using all the poetic sources for sound; a masterful job, really impressive. You are my kind of poet, digging deep, dreaming and writing large, rife with dramatic segues and personal memories. You had me at the “submarine” line. I’m an old Navy man, and those drowned sailors haunt me.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Not the first to say it, but its eerily beautiful how you capture the everywhere and nowhere, same but different thing of the subs. The melancholy, almost apathy of the beauty and the ugly shown together like “it is what it is” is stunning. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. You cover a lot of (manicured) turf here, Peter. Some of the best horror movies made have been in the suburbs (The Stepford Wives, Beetlejuice, Fright Night) just because of the perceived safety of them. There is a fine line between safety and numbness. In our small town they tore down the center where many of the oldest buildings with beautiful architecture was and replaced it with one of these hideous malls — there were fountains but no memory of the beaded water on strings of nylon. The mall is gone now but there is no bringing back those buildings. I very much enjoyed hearing you read your remembrances and wonderful wordplay, leaving a bittersweet residue at the end.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. so many layers of texture and turmoil in the tidy tediousness of suburbia! You’ve captured it hauntingly well … Roselands brings back so many memories. We grew up not far from each other geographically yet you paint the burbs so many know …

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I don’t miss the suburbs but I do miss Woolworths. I always thought suburban living most resembled a movie set. Complete with ensemble cast and memorized lines. (K)


  13. Lovely exploration of how as much as suburb life seems as cheap as “Woolworths”, it makes of us supermen/women who do it all for much more: love. So beautifully written and spoken.


  14. Thank you for the reading. This has an abundance of sounds, each helping to visualize your scenes, but the reading is the icing on the cake. The “tic-a-tick-a-tick” and “tat-a-tat-a-tat” come alive.

    And I just realized I should have recorded mine, so I’ve just added that.


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