Sydney Red Gums and Yellow Bloodwoods,
shield me from urban eyesores.
My spirit soars through the setting sun.
Over the ridge
geomancers wander incognito,
their missions as enigmatic
as indecipherable runes on woody henges.
I meditate on the swaying dance
of trees broader than a man
before Banks entered the womb.
The cicadas chant gathers momentum.
Earthly perception fades.
The multiverse awaits.
Drifting into worlds where words have no currency.
The forest awaits.
The vibrancy of a moss splotched boulder
courses through me.
Embellishment was barely necessary
to satisfy Ray’s English teacher’s demand for poetry.
Completing algebra exercises
felt like driving a car
without knowing what a combustion engine is.
“Lifting a polynomial’s bonnet
is as as difficult as safe breaking
with a polystyrene drill” he mused.
Mr Hobbs wanted to know if dropping atomic bombs
on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was necessary?
Ray was side tracked by the psychological deformities
of a pilot who names a B29 after his mother
and its Uranium bomb after himself.
He finished typing his essay in darkness,
before sharing a thermos of passion flower tea with Layla,
the homeless woman in the cave below.
Thanks to the community centre showers,
she smelt like apricots and strawberries,
almost as sweet as she was.
Layla was too accustomed to camping
to accept underemployment payments.
She massaged him from head to toe,
in exchange for his listening ear
and the tinned fruit he’d stashed
beneath his mineral collection.
The Death Penalty
Ray’s anxiety intensified with every step towards home.
“Where the fuck ya been ya lazy cunt.
The cat that’s bin trynta get in the aviary,
that fat bitch up tha road reckons it’s disappeared.
It’s your turn to put a bullet in this one.”
“Should we shoot Genghis
for tearing off the heads off Blue Tongue Lizards?”
Jack Emerson looked as stumped,
as a batsman who needs binoculars to see the keeper.
“You haven’t told me where you’ve been”
he growled as he cornered Ray
and slapped him with concussive force.
Ray remained as silent as a corpse.
He ignored the stabbing kicks to his glutes
as he walked away.
“If you like having somewhere to live,
and wanna keep your leftard Chomskyite library
out of landfill,
you’re the executioner tonight” Jack declared.
Ray entered the cellar
and pressed the barrel of the .22 calibre rifle
to the temple of the enraged, caged feline.
Its death was as sudden as expected.
Blood oozed from its pierced skull
and pooled on ancient copies of the Telegraph.
Ray’s mother Ellen was abroad visiting her sister.
It was something Jack allowed
whenever he wished to cull the local cat population,
or seduce one of his pretty trainee’s.
Too restless to sleep,
Ray reread Peter Goldsworthy’s ‘Maestro’ overnight.
Bus Line Barbarians
Adrenaline carried Ray through double maths
and cross country training.
He was as passive as a scarecrow,
as Gavin Ellis and his minions
shoved him from every point of the compass.
Ellis launched Ray into a rose bush.
He got up as though nothing happened.
A more insightful bully might’ve read something into that.
Ellis laughed like the half-witted crayon lion he was.
Ray attacked as instinctively as he breathed.
Time flowed like glass as his swift, smooth flurry
turned Ellis lip into a bloody canyon.
Sensing his will was as broken
as a bottle struck by a rocket propelled grenade,
Ray dropped his hands and walked away.
His mind was already in the forest with Layla.
By the time he found her remains,
rats and foxes had rendered her unrecognizable.
Ray identified Layla by the scissored remains of her dress.
He photographed the scene,
in case her partially skeletonised corpse vanished,
as he climbed the gully to phone the authorities.
“How’s your lazy hippy whore” Jack asked.
“Dead” Ray answered in a zombie like monotone,
“Shit, don’t I have foot in mouth disease today”
Ray was too numb to shove Jack away,
as he embraced him like he was a little boy.
It was impossible to predict when Jack
the protective father/likable fishing gear salesman
would pass the baton to the petulant sociopath.
He grew impatient with Ray’s woebegone state.
“As expressionless as a sardine,
they teach you that in drama?
Answer me” Jack menaced,
as he slammed him against the loungeroom brickwork.
Ray remained as silent as a mannequin.
All he read now was suicide manuals.
During class, only the expansion and contraction of his pupils,
revealed he was conscious.
He managed to get his name wrong
at the top of an in class essay he abandoned
midway through the introduction.
Mr Grey, the school psychologist, was a strange man
who invited students to his turkey farm,
for ‘work experience’
His I’m just a touchy feely kind of guy
and the world is homophobic sales pitch fooled many.
Ray noticed the knee squeezes were heading north.
Their duration had gone from a blink to a sneeze.
How are you Sting Ray, Grey asked as he patted his thigh.
“Is your favourite movie Predator” Ray quipped.
It was the first full sentence he’d spoken in weeks.
With the help of his friend Donovan Hailey,
the school’s cyber security officer,
Ray hacked into the surveillance system
and compiled a list of frequent visitors to Grey’s office.
What do you think of Mr Grey,
Ray casually asked, during a game of handball.
If they answered with fear in their eyes,
he invited them to a snooker and darts party
attended by his former police officer Cousin Jason,
his prosecution lawyer Cousin Gillian
and his psychotherapist Aunt Grace,
who was as mentally stable as a hurricane navigator,
as soothing as snorkeling in a pristine billabong
and as charismatic as a cabaret singer.
Grace had been working with troubled teens
since her own tumultuous youth.
She was unable to coax the victims into pressing charges.
Efforts to have the monsters employment terminated
were undermined by Australian politicians and clergymen.
After the local election,
Waratah Island Catholic College’s lease was terminated.
Government appointed executive staff quietly purged the accused.
Mr Grey, the most gifted liar among them,
returned after his suspension.
In fit of rage, Ray put a cricket bat through his office window.
The school security guard pinned him to the ground.
“Check mate”, Grey murmured as he strolled to the staff room.
Waratah Island Technology Highschool
In the days following his expulsion Ray didn’t utter a word.
Jack dragged him from bed, by the ear, every morning,
wrestled him into the car
and parked the length of a football field
inside the fenced grounds
of Waratah Island Technology High School.
The place was renowned for churning out
fringe NRL players, construction workers
and blue-collar criminals.
Maths wizards were grudgingly respected,
if they could apply their passion for physics,
to doing donuts in the principal’s new Mercedes.
The only poetic, sociologist types who thrived
were beat boxers and rap battlers.
Few of the female minority could relate
to boys who wrote short film scripts
during State of Origin matches,
unless they were the sort
who could advise them on skincare products.
When Jack saw unfamiliar bruises on his son,
he was happy the education system
was making a man out of him.
If he was his bold, witty self,
Ray would’ve carved his niche
but his will to live left him the day Mr Grey returned
to the former Waratah Island Catholic High School,
looking as smug as a cat in an aviary,
For photography maestros,
seeking the perfect shot,
daybreak was a serendipitous moment;
barely rivaled by magnetic midnights.
Ray’s appreciation for the life giving properties of stars
had been extinguished long ago,
that radiant morning sky
may as well have been
a grainy black and white reproduction
marred by coffee stains and pigeon shit.
He slid beneath a slowly collapsing fence,
hoping to stay there until cockroaches
had excreted the last of his rotting flesh.
After two days of wasting away,
the tattered remains of his will to live
hauled him into the light of a blood red moon.
Devastated by his failure to die
he lurched in the direction of home,
pausing at the edge of a cliff
and a railway overpass enroute.
His life was an endlessly festering sore,
yet suicide remained as unlikely
as a delirium tremens sufferer
trapping an angry hornet with chop sticks.
Metres from his door he was immobilised,
by the fear of being thrashed for evading school.
As a storm approached, Ray’s mood shifted
from morbid paranoia to sheer panic.
Golf ball sized hail stones stunned homebound boozers
into phlegm spraying sprints.
Thunder and lightning sent neighbourhood cats and dogs
into a frenzied cacophony of hissing and howling.
Throughout the ordeal
Ray remained as motionless as the gargoyle
perched on his ornamental sandstone letterbox.
Ursula’s Ice Cream Dream
Ray’s mood hadn’t lifted
since he was found in the foetal position,
after his failed bid to die a famine victims death.
His mother steered him into Ursula’s Ice Cream Dream.
A crater of chocolate veined Arabic coffee,
lovingly created by a mango swirl asteroid
and laced with berry spliced English toffee;
failed to ameliorate Ray’s melancholy muteness.
Sprinkled ice as crushed as him,
hardly elicited euphoric memories of Smiggins snow men.
The most delectable dessert ever chilled
may as well have been
partially composted Brussels Sprouts.
That winter, all food was puke inspiring cardboard to Ray.
His untouched snack
melted like the Wicked Witch of The West.
Rowena’s Rare Reads
While Ray’s mum had her midnight ringlets
streaked with purple and silver,
he wandered into the second hand bookshop.
The cloistered maze of shelves felt less threatening
than the blend of car stereos,
impatient horns and enraged taunts outside.
Rowena’s shop felt as permanent as the pyramids.
Rumours of ancient Egyptian scrolls
in her stately storeroom
hadn’t brought a cavalcade of detectives
on behalf of Tutankhamun yet.
Rowena’s haunting melodies, accompanied by
the medicinally morbid tones of Pink Floyd,
were as soothing as an urban forest.
Ray felt a burning urge to bury his face
in the valley of her bosoms,
but just choking out a hello,
proved to be as difficult
as hauling a carnival fat man from a well.
The girl with cascading honey blonde hair,
in the psychology aisle, looked as approachable
as the patron saint of terrified boys.
She didn’t say anything, she just kissed her hand
and rested it on Ray’s cheek.
She waited for the tears and hugged him goodbye.
He was too surprised by the gesture
to mourn her departure,
until she was as long gone as the Saharan Jungle.
As Ray explored the poetry section,
a heirloom copy of Homer’s Odyssey
plummeted to the floor.
Sequences of sketches, on mediaeval parchment,
depicting an amorphous blob transforming into an angel,
escaped from between its pages.
The archaic caption translated to
‘chaos rendered into hope.’
As sunrise prised Ray’s eyelids apart,
as mercilessly as a white hot tooth pick,
hope seemed more distant
than an ancient Sumerian incarnation.
Life had lost its flavour.
The greatest novel ever written
moved him no more than a spelling list.
Drifting through the depths of an oasis lagoon,
would’ve revitalised him less
than second hand bath water,
in a warehouse of plastic trees.
Ray fastened his tie
as grimly as if it were a hangman’s noose.
“Quit the distressed act and get in the fucking car”
his father bellowed from the driveway,
as Ray dry retched into a vomit fouled sink.
As the old Ford entered the school gates,
Ray was as nervous as conjoined twins forced to choose
between cart wheeling across a high wire
and facing a firing squad.
The class sniggered
as Mr Sneddon quizzed Ray on quadratic trinomials.
He stared at the blackboard in mute panic.
Recess offered no relief.
If the playground was a pool of sharks
Ray was a paralysed seal.
In history he lay slumped over his desk,
as inanimate as the rodent violated corpses
on the Western Front.
A public speaking test inched closer,
like the tide edging towards a toddler
buried to the chin.
That evening, Ray entered the family car
like a death row prisoner enroute to the electric chair.
Normally busloads of girls would’ve thrilled him
more than a luxury cruise to Mars
but his mind was in a place where gourmet meals
taste like asbestos cookies in plutonium syrup.
Cuties mistook his grimace for contempt.
From their attention he was soon exempt.
That social gathering soothed Ray
like treating sunburn with a Bunsen burner.
Battle of the genders basketball began.
Ray felt no more enlivened by the spectacle
than if he’d been watching a crucifixion.
Serena’s sparkling gaze
couldn’t penetrate his blank stare.
She was on the verge of asking,
‘is there a boy in there’.
Uncomfortable with the way her father
stared at her cascading honey blonde hair,
every time she untied it,
Serena had shaved her head, so Ray wasn’t sure
where he’d seen those sparkling green eyes,
and lush lips before.
At the barbeque
Ray looked on as dispassionately as a sardine
as Zac Zorro Zimmerman strutted his way up the diving tower,
amidst risque repartee from flame haired floozies.
Three hundred students cheered enmass
as Zac ended his triple twist with a mighty splash,
drenching Ms Paige, living proof of the Jurassic age.
As she clenched the remnants of her teeth she raged
‘that’ll cost you ten pages on manners Zimmerman’
Incessant background babble amplified Ray’s paranoid terror.
He wandered into the darkness, beyond the flood lights,
Serena’s footsteps were muffled by jubilant chaos,
She sat beside him, drew him near
and coaxed a torrent of silent tears
from his bloodshot insomniac eyes.
He lost all sense of time and place
as she pressed his ear to her serenely beating heart.
In a secluded patch of moonlight
Ray spotted the succession of birthmarks
that graced the softness of her neck.
The first was a shapeless blob,
the last bore an uncanny resemblance to angels wings.