TEXT poetry


Ian Smith

2 prose poems



Yourself at Nineteen

Your brother mails photos.  Staring hard, the present deliquescing into the past, you inhabit your old self, thin again, with hair like that, your girl-wife, pregnant, looking bored, bemused, her puppy-love, your troubled days together, a notch in time.  There is your brother, his boy’s cheeky expression long before it cracked into the careworn lined parchment face of a junkie’s father.  Your father smokes, dragooned into joining in, captured by the camera’s recording viewfinder.  You deduce he was younger then than you are now.  The photo of your mother is out of focus.  Of course, you think, he must have taken it.  A map of your life now, tracing artistic interests, would bewilder him, rooted in his belief you were trash.  We lean against the car he bought new.  You remember its plastic seat covers kept on for a year, how hot and sticky they became, your scorn.  Outraged when you drove it needing a licence, he demanded you slow down, his tone as poisonous as whenever his fumbling fingers failed to light the kerosene lamp with night falling fast, even though you drove like a boy scout to appease him.  You smoke, too, looking like Joe Cool, your projected image, wearing a white shirt, cuffs turned back, revealing a wrist support you can’t recall, below teenage tattoos.  You can feel that sun’s heat stretching to infinity, feel your boyish emotional vow to kill your father one distant day when grown up, fleeing his cruelty at fourteen, the danger, blood spilled, during trouble faced on your own, how you couldn’t be bothered hurting him for revenge on your return before that calmer day of the camera.  You wonder which of your father’s adults he echoed, muse how photos, like easily broken vows, can blur, how loss haunts survival.    



Self-taught, he found a way to a better job; foreman at a soundproofing firm, the irony of this lost until now, his application composed from the largely untested belief his intelligence should fructify.  Leaving home that first morning enjoying his shift in fortune, he drove a truck borrowed from a panelbeater, his small car’s minor repairs held up, this truck racetrack loud, unlike his car, with a radio, even louder, window down, singing along with Creedence.
On the phone, pseudo-puissant, his office high above wage-hound terrain, bullshitting clients about overdue shipments on management’s insistence, he chafed despite a large pay hike.  One company’s receptionist flirted in a sex-kitten voice, a highlight of increasingly vexed days, so when his delivery driver went home ill he seized his chance.
Crossing a foyer towards her he realised his mistake.  Somehow, the plain, enormously overweight woman half-sensed his identity even before his introduction.  Voice hollow with dismay, she, they, knew their phone fun was over.  He drove fast back to his eyrie, delivery boy fiasco a near record of brevity even for his previous workplace history.
Hair longer, he bought a caravan, a muscle car with a big growly engine for towing, after sitting directly upright from sleep one midnight announcing to his wife he would experience tropical Queensland.  House sold, she tagged along, kids out of school off on an adventure.  The dog, too.  Unaware of the pitfalls of change’s collateral damage, they set off like Odysseus, but tracking north.  Life on.  Thus these pixilated memories of his mid-life crisis at thirty-one.




Ian C Smith writes in the Gippsland Lakes region of Victoria, and on Flinders Island, Tasmania.  His work has appeared in Antipodes, cordite, Four W, Landscapes, Poetry New Zealand, Shaping the Fractured Self (UWAP) and Southerly. His seventh book is wonder sadness madness joy (Ginninderra 2014).


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Vol 23 No 2 October 2019
General Editor: Nigel Krauth. Editors: Julienne van Loon & Ross Watkins
Creative works editor: Anthony Lawrence