1 Indians absorbed in cricket Audible from Boundary Road cries at a catch In the 1970s the park’s rear fence large white capitals LORDS present the eleven years we’d live there and decades later When did it fade? Footsteps sink through the run-up’s topsoil and when a boundary is hit they rise through the stones of adjacent railway tracks 2 Stone fragments picked up and hurled at my father’s shoe factory the office window cracked Dullards, the eldest son about to pick up more slivers but my father raced across the street and shoved him in the chest with an accented curse as he bolted A younger Dullard would walk past our garden ripping my father’s roses from the stems hurling them to the footpath All that was from Wogland had to be desecrated wogs sent back I felt his fists one morning, a figure streaking towards me catching me from behind His sister, on her way to school, tried to intervene She was shoved away and told to piss off Years later he told me he thought I was a dumb wog He was failing school, surprised I was doing better The older brother cornered me with two of his mates at Bain Reserve They’d followed me from the shops the elder punching a loaf of bread from my hand My sister would insist that when confronted to get mad and uncontrollable kick at the kneecaps and balls of my assailants My father knocked on the Dullard’s door I explained why we were there the Dullard father telling his elder son never to go near me again Four years later I heard he’d got married at nineteen Forty-five years later a swirling wind through elms opposite what was Phils Mens Hairstylist its timeless façade replaced during the pandemic A now-empty paddock and railway line beyond searches for houses knocked down in the 1980s the First & Last Hotel, left standing an island in site of the police station built where our house and factory stood closest to the cemetery It was as if we were the only foreigners Wish the Asians, Middle Easterners and East Africans at the shopping village had been here back then 3 The Drooper hated Wogland accused its inhabitants of being gutless during the war, traitors for changing sides to be with the winners He’d never heard of the partisan resistance or fall of fascism At twelve, he claimed to be able to beat up every wog to the age of fourteen in Italy He was unstoppable At school when one of the major toughs aimed a flying karate kick at his stomach he didn’t feel a thing Once he came to school with a cold and coughed over me to give the wog back to the wog For the last day of Grade 4 he’d recruited four of my friends so I could feel his fists They lingered opposite the First & Last Hotel He was going to let me go, he later confessed but his anger came through when I tried to defend myself striking before he could get me He befriended me in the last two years of primary school Though he was capable, he rarely played football or cricket which made it easy to hang out with him at recess At the end of Grade 6 he stole an encyclopedia from class giving it to me because where I was going next I’d have to study He’d be going to a tech school reckoned to be a bludge I saw him three more times On mornings as I headed to the tram twice I nodded, saying hi He traipsed past with a hardening look The third time I ambled by his slurred words drowned out by traffic In front of the boys’ toilet at St Marks he’d given me my first sex ed lesson: Instead of dicks girls piss through cracks 4 Rubble from demolished houses consigned to landfill Home to some was a pot-holed street with regular funeral processions It would take years to repave the road To us home was lined with patches of soil that grew radicchio, beans and parsley even in summer heat when family friends felt the cold The cemetery next door took some of them their remains behind fading plaques of yellow-brick walls (The Margini thereabouts, with their only child drowned in a boating accident after he’d started a family) Our lemon, apple, pear and nectarine trees found no place there years later my parents would A swirling wind, two lines of elms and then silence The gale’s effects photographed in Tarkovsky’s Mirror rows of grasses bent along a field An unwelcomed figure abandoning the scene with his briefcase At Merlynston station the same view down the railway line towards Fawkner station as forty-five years earlier except the gravel path, now a gravel carpark the old house and factory with its blue billboard vanished Envisaging what a home could be the sounds of my steps carried forward on turning back pantoum-like, as if chalked on a hopscotch grid in reverse What’s gone no custodians (Billibellary’s Mob wiped out) to merge their knowledge with the shape of this land with whom we could share food that will never be offered 5 Notes gathered during imagined suburban walks in lockdowns and eventual returns School acquaintances I’d scant reason to recall undeserving of any nostalgia I feel their younger forms in streets and schoolyards whose bitumen remains They were mostly dead to me If they live they’re as hollow as then Landscapes
Edward Caruso has been published in A Voz Limpia, Australian Multilingual Writing Project, ‘La Bottega della Poesia’ (La Repubblica, Italy), Burrow, Communion, Meniscus, n-Scribe, Right Now, StylusLit, TEXT, Unusual Work and Well-Known Corners: Poetry on the Move. His second collection of poems, Blue Milonga, was published by Hybrid Publishers in January 2019. In August 2019 he featured on 3CR’s Spoken Word program.