La Donna Maria

Until about three years ago I had been living for twenty years in a small beach-side suburb not a million miles away from Bondi Beach.

This poem is an attempt to pay recognition to a wonderful woman who has been living there on the beachfront for far longer than me. Everyone is touched by her. Respect.

Enigmatic twinkling and stylish
Describable only in sound bites
She gives and receives respect
Throughout the sleepy village

Generous open-hearted and kind
Bearing pain with stoic bravery
Shares her patronage with all
Tells their futures in espresso

Defiantly on the Jarmusch diet
Air and cigarettes and coffee
Fragile and powerful at once
Links us all to a receding past


Riding the night club juggernaut

In our smoky minds …

Spilling out of Cornucopia

We wandered the party nightscape

Before checking out Hysteria

Peering into Myopia

Then settling for Fantasia for a while

Moving on as the night grew hazier

We forgot about Amnesia

Something fishy about Miasma

Dystopia was too crowded

Landed in Nirvana above the cloudy clouds

Ending up smashed

At the new hot day club

Of the imagination

The one they call Dyslexia

Where you can dance all yad long

My New Hat

I won’t go back to Nebraska

She said as she sold me a hat

There’s more of the world here in Newtown

And that, my man, is a fact

The hatband grabbed my attention

Rasta red, yellow and green

Then the shape, pattern, colour and pricing

Completed the hat of my dreams

Perfectly weighted for tossing

To catch on the head with one spin

Light, black and slight logoed by Dior

Graced with a snappy short brim

I’d rather pump gas in Alaska

She said as she rang up the sale

Than be seen as a whore or a servant

By white folk who should be in jail

The hat looks very becoming

It suits your twinkling blue eyes

Here’s a card with my name and number

If there’s anything you’d like to try

We smiled and hand-shook each other

As I jauntily bade her farewell

Bouncing and buzzing down King Street

Like a twenty-first century swell

When Dad had a stroke

Tidying up before you go OBE

(Over Bloody Eighty)

Tripping through your roots

Back home on family soil

Touching base with sisters and bro

Measure your survival in memories

England Scotland Ireland Wales

Your Four Nations tour

With your loved one by your side

O lucky man,

To have a second chance and get it right

Lucky man to be loved to bits

This time around

Then the bloody clots,

Fifth columnists in your veins

Ironic vindication of your brain

(Diagnosis must be in your cells by now

After forty years of daily waiting rooms)

How frustrating it must be

To know your body’s not right

But no specifics found

You’re a brave kind gentle man

I love you Dad

Come for a barbie at my place soon

You slack old bugger.

Bronte Midnight

Water darting in the rockpools

Quicksilvered by the moon

Rugged raggedy waves roar

         In the nooks and crannies

         of the stalwart stones

A crinkling luminescence

Pulses on the horizon

just off Bondi

As a darker poem struggles

Beneath my hurt and aloneness

for the breath of life

Remembering Mankavitch

Gary K. Mankavitch: Spiritual Detective

More than twenty years have whipped by since Max Thrower and Phil Muscatello opened an Audio production house in a room in a dodgy men’s boarding house in Darlinghurst.

They called themselves “Really Really Big Productions” because they were so small.
(That’s irony for those of you up the back who aren’t keeping up.)

Phil liked it because it was two doors away from the Tropicana and Max liked it because it was above Nicholas Pounder’s bookshop.

I like it because for over a year I would spend intense bursts of time recording several characters for a radio serial written by Max called “Gary K. Mankavitch: Spiritual Detective”.  As well as the title character I had fun being a very Welsh Doubting Thomas with Jesus in Galilee, and a few other bits and pieces.

The national broadcaster, bless ’em, saw fit to broadcast the series a couple of times on ABC Radio National in 1995.

Through the porous membrane of memory I recall vocal contributions from Lee Perry, Laura Gabriel, Peter McCallum, Sascha Huckstepp, Monroe Reimers, Louise Howlett and Gennie Nevinson.

Let’s see how they have weathered the intervening storms of time.

Who killed Lazarus? … a Galilean murder mystery.

The Missing Soap Star … where is Mandy Martin, star of “Next Door”?

Mexique … Mexican con women, monasteries and James Bond spirit.

Rescuing Ralph … Gary’s mentor has gone off the rails. Is he safe?

Books … Who put Grinder’s head in the bookpress?



In the café village by the sea,
Angels live among us,
Held dear to my heart,
Spreading warmth and joy.

As do the bouncy, smiling sirens
Flitting between the Bays.
From the Admiral’s to the Soldier Poet’s
Sharing comforts of a kind.

Alas, their song no longer confounds
Adventurers needless of earplugs or restraints
Who sail past heedless of their languid tunes,
Intent on younger passing prey.

On the sand and in the grassy park,
Polyglot maidens far from home, looking for fun,
Browning their hypnotic tender roundness
Glistening blissfully in the torpid sun.

In the café village by the sea
The salt breeze invigorates
Waiters, musicians, poets and travellers,
Singers and surfers and uncles and aunts.

Bacon’n’egging their way through the day
Mixing with the cousins, bros and sisters,
Yummy mummies with baby-bonus kiddies,
Local walkers and yapping furry companions.

Shadows fall in the café village by the sea
When surfaces are scraped and peeled
Blisters of silent contention burst
Spattering unpleasant legal games.

Clusters of flushing errant hormones
Disrupt the friendly yin and yang
Fluttering outbreaks of diatribe
Congeal  the lonely armchair greens.

Hungry homeless pull rank on seagulls
For discarded fishy chippies
Before blanketing down in caves
Or sheltered nests in the gully forest.

Sometimes at night in the park
Of the café village by the sea
Hordes of cosseted drunken youth
Scream their anger and bewilderment.

Smashing and fighting against confusion
Their inheritance of the shackles of privilege
Binding them to the comfort of continuity
They howl against their blessed destiny.

Not Summer

When daylight saving’s gone,
In the café village by the sea,
The sun goes down with a chilly thump.

Suddenly it’s six o’clock
And nobody’s around

Happy holiday funsters have flown
Back to Vienna, Frankfurt, Dublin and Rome
Madrid, London, Rio and Bristol

The village now a nocturnal habitat
Native creatures shyly return

Loyal local workers slumping
Off the autumn bus
Dragging home their briefcases
With take-away cuisine

“I promise I’ll bring the plate back”

Then of course, there’s Larry
Who no-one quite believes
Though the stories stay the same
His wallet has never been seen

Lounge Lizard Larry from LA
Self-described movie producer
Trader in nebulous commodities
And old mate of the stars

If half of what he says
Is somewhere near the truth
The other half is vivid madness
A bright-eyed whirlwind
Of barking mad enthusiasm

During crisp but sunny wintry daze
Locals have time and space to meet
Smugly glowing swimmers wave and greet
At some ungodly time of afternoon

“Quite warm today, really!”
They chirrup
In denial of the goose bumps
Purpling their limbs
Spiking their arm and leg hairs

But the best thing about not-summer
In the café village by the sea
Is that friends and neighbours
Have their street, park and beach back.

Slow uncrowded coffees
Ciggies in the park
Talking shit with mates
Strengthening friendships