‘Your vocation calls
& you answer it’
John Forbes, ‘Pacific’
It’s a new century / ‘the empty future’
& we are impressed, even if inspiration has been
commodified as point of sale & sustained effort
left at a Hume Highway rest stop. Same with
video stores, a whole chain stretching into the bush
at Pheasant’s Nest, while the newsreader asks
‘What do you think, Australia?’ Self-regard is the
sine qua non of the writer now, lurching between
imagined crises / if you don’t take yourself seriously
who will? Even dropping out must be done with
sprezzatura. That’s why having a smoke with you
or better: passing out under the Coke sign
would be more fun than a longneck with Frank
(maybe), why propping up the bar at the East Sydney
is a total fucking gas
at least when nothing else is happening.
There’s no place for us on Plato’s postcard
so let the junkies go through our pockets
a tragic hero, reconciled to his vocation, &
a minor poet, both conspicuously dishonest
doing their part for the night-time economy.
Only in Melbourne do they ask, cracking
a smirk like a can of Solo, why you gave up
coathanger city, trading stained grace for a more
European sensibility, whatever that means.
As David says: ‘St Kilda’s just Brighton-Le-Sands
with attitude.’ Of course, the bars are open later
you can score in Abbottsford & they still smoke here.
The Freudian drive to renovate never quite took
hold either, making the suburbs an ideal landscape
for the indolent classes. So fashion a hat
from the form guide, call it Spring Carnival. It’s easier
to be unhappy here, all told, & nothing says
‘good morning’ like a brimming ashtray & a flock
of empties across the lounge room floor.
This poem includes quotes and paraphrases from ‘Lessons for Young Poets’, ‘Ode to Tropical Skiing’ and ‘The Age of Plastic’ by John Forbes, ‘Having a Coke with You’ by Frank O’Hara, and correspondence between John Forbes and Laurie Duggan (‘Return to Sender’)