‘Why didn’t life turn out the way it looked
in Cronulla in 1967?’ Or at least
how it does in a Go-Betweens film clip?
On the streets of this town no one cares where
you come from, or
why / what’s important
is you’re here, joining
the ranks of the body beautiful
basking in sunshine & glory, having bid
to late-night yeeros
& subsisting, as I do, on the whiff
of a lettuce leaf &
eau de spray tan.
This is how we live now
between images & grime–O brave
that has such
everyone on the take, asking
‘So / what do you do?’
If there really is one weird trick
they’re not telling us, just as they’ll never
concrete in the harbour – why would they?
if not protection money?
Stuff it. Buy a lottery ticket, have a
cold one while you wait
for a solution to arrive
on the wing
of the ibis of chips past
put your finger back in’
before stealing the remote.
It’s the sweet serenade
of eighties, nineties & new stuff
belched from the car radio, the buying of
which did NOTHING to negate
the billboard, by the way / it’s simply
what you get for being outside. But then
‘fuck a pig’
a jacketless night
drifts in & you can smell
the ocean from Redfern
to Redleaf, thick air parting like a bath
the atmosphere electric
with ions & sweat & the city
making breathing easy.
‘Emotions are not Hawaiian shirts’ but
the occasion calls for one, desire
skating out to merge
with the infinite
& the scent
of an unforgiving summer
just around the bend.
This poem takes its title from the collection John Forbes was working on when he died. It includes quotes and paraphrases from ‘thin ice’ by John Forbes, and from correspondence between Forbes and Laurie Duggan (‘Return to Sender’).