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The Sleeping City | Australia Street

Helen Loughlin

 

I
A waxing crescent moon in a twilight sky still
a vague, lightly glowing shadow of the whole –
its illuminated hemisphere – is visible. As I walk
the line from the Court House, scene of so many
poetry readings and launches, to Derby Street near
the old Fowler factory park and Camperdown
Bowlo, I think back: the Shakey’s now The Coopers;
the Marlborough is still the Marly to many but so
changed; the Bank is unrecognisable; and the Newtown
gone completely.  Where do I place my compass now
that the familiar is only similar, rendering the Earth-Sun
line feint, at best, when it shouldn’t be. And why
are these meridian points pubs only and not other
significant phenomena: not people; not ideas; not grand
themes. The Cornstalk’s gone and with it the poets
and writers scraping a skerrick, now the words unfound
in Better Read than Dead. Gould’s façade is still there
but the book speleology, to find what you’re looking for
now all empty ravines and caves.
 

II
There’s Lennox Street where John F lived, near
the Carlisle Castle. There’s a picture somewhere
of him at a typewriter in that flat when still alive, vital.
And not far off is Bailey Street where Gilbert E and I
lived with a massive Autumnal mural, casting a rusty
hue to those few years. The Sando was the place to go
for Paris Green on a Sunday night. Further along
off King Street Joe M lived with Phil S on Union Street,
and whose playing of Windy and Warm as I woke
with Fintan Ó one day at Bridge Road – almost meeting
the Parramatta Road end of Australia Street –
formed the background theme tune to my time there.
The Harold Park Hotel with its comics, theatre sports
and Writers in the Park on a Tuesday night competing
with the Trots. Robin Williams even appeared once –
all now gone. All over.
 

III
But it’s the corner of Brown Street where Clem’s
Chickens – still serving quality chook and side dishes
to the changed demographic – that makes me stop
and remember: your scent, so fresh to me again
recently, but now even without the patchouli,
it’s mine, my memory, my bit of you all these
years, while I walked the city, quelling devils.
And this is a turning I really do need, and want,
to make.
 

IV
So, there I go one Saturday morning
and I can feel the rising longing
as I get close to the Belvedere –
red brick and cream iron balconies
so Sydney 70s, it’s now almost heritage –
for what? Can’t quite place which was your
flat. The breathlessness at the chunk of time
elapsed slows my pace and, really, where the hell
did it all go. Your bed, its crisp linen, so alien
in those days, a clean respite from the chaos
I lived in, felt. Then round the corner
to 60 Wilson Street, scene of a lost weekend
when I cried for another and you looked after me,
unquestioningly.
 

V
I was scared that time on Parramatta Road
When you declared undying love and I receded,
scared of what it all meant. But we followed
each other across the globe and cities – Sydney,
London, Edinburgh, Seattle – and across
the years it was always you, I see that. A skewed
diurnal arc. The freight of our past and now,
here we are. And this is it. You and me.
 

VI
The young moon
is always seen in the west
after sunset. My prime
meridian recedes and then
fades, an as-yet-unknown
dip circle in this magnetic
inclination.

 

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