In 99, Celeste and I were graffiti artist hunters,
of the photographer variety.
Whether it’s a Renoiresque landscape
decorating a highway underpass
or the kid who failed art
scrawling his tag on the court house,
it’s all the same to Senior Constable Brett Clydesdale.
He mistook us for a useful pair of eyes.
The moniker ‘Rebel Chameleon’ dominated his patrol car.
The crime was committed beneath the midday sun,
while Templeton Hill was distracted
by local sporting hero Melvin Mayhem Mannix
stalking ageing middleweight kingpin
Supersonic Sid Salisbury.
Clydesdale yearned to arrest tourists
for showing his defaced vehicle on social media
but had to content himself
with warning them against blocking traffic.
Celeste spotted a man in a chameleon skin mask
join a busload of similarly attired tourists.
There was an air of confidence about him
that said I could tattoo your sclera
and vanish before you feel the burn.
The throng of street artists
were headed for a graffiti convention,
via Templeton Pie Shop.
By the time Senior Constable Clydesdale
finished sampling the latest confectionary experiment,
at Bessie’s Bakery,
their vehicle was on the highway.
To Clydesdale’s disgust,
no known spray paint wizard in the country
was athletic enough to commit the crime
and be relaxing in the pie shop,
before the graffiti tourists were on the road.
If the culprit had boarded their bus,
he wasn’t an official passenger
and he’d departed early.
On a tour where everyone has just met,
that’s as easy as vanishing in a blizzard.
The first time I saw Celeste
was at the Art Gallery of New South Wales,
when Freddie Mercury was still alive,
I took a picture for her and the sniggering toff
she was already tempted to jettison.
Celeste photographed me kissing a marble sculpture
of Margaret Fontaine on the buttocks.
Security anticipated my lewd conduct
with a bronze incarnation of Zeus.
Luckily my book was emblazoned on my t-shirt.
Celeste liked every poem.
I found her as intriguing as the Amazon
but harder to reach than it’s undiscovered tribes.
Her detractors claimed to have met more responsive statues.
Approaching topics from more angles
than architectural encyclopaedias,
prompted her to weave philosophical tapestries.
The nature of our relationship
was unpredictable as Antarctic ice.
The journeys from chaste pecks to cavorting tongues and back
were longer than the Kokoda Track
but I was as persistent as Pheidippides.
By the twenty first century,
Cupid was a passed out sentry
as I kissed passive lips goodbye.
Celeste’s misdial was as unexpected as Mercury orbiting our moon.
She found the conversation less comfortable
than Monday for the sole bearer of bad news
in an intensive care ward.
Another year of estrangement passed.
At our Circular Quay reunion,
cyborg flag marshals ushered in fantastical U.F.O’s,
for spare change,
until hail carpeted the ground like snow.
Viking helmets, from ‘In Characters’ closing down sale,
shielded us on our journey to The Domain.
The temple façade of the gallery loomed.
Fantastical art as surprising as Bates is enterprising,
the brochure lauded a lord of philanthropists.
My irises shrunk to porthole frames
as I gazed at armor plated starfish,
with a penchant for hammerhead blood,
guarding their Great Barrier Reef lair.
Venus Stegosaurus Traps settled for hapless rhinos.
A trumpeting zebra summoned a genie
from its Bourbon bottle prison.
Rats decapitated cheese statues of pest controllers.
Celeste looked restless.
Down the corridor,
a plague of suns fought for space in the skyscape,
as a shepherd shook his crook at disobedient woolly mammoths.
Sequoia triffids failed to see the irony
in their chain saw rampages
turning loggers huts into mounds of sawdust.
The wolf dolphin was petrified
of the reflections on its scales,
it looked too drug addled
to tell coral quays from blue whales.
I clutched my pen
with the relief a diabetic grips overdue insulin.
A tsunami of ideas can kill like a wall of water.
Celeste’s favourite gallery was all palms, tree ferns and moss.
Under a gazebo we embraced.
Lingering barriers flew like wildfire dew.
That night I watched her hyper expressive face
engrossed in Wuthering Heights.
Normally her passion is as hidden
as black spray paint, on a coalface,
countless corners from a pin prick of light.
The good night caress of her tongue
was sweet, tender, but not without restraint.
I lapsed into chaotic REM punctuated by a starters gun.
All I had to do was catch the horizon.
Pheidippedes grinned from his roadside knee store.
Between Broome and Darwin
Celeste was mouth-watering in black lingerie
and mouthing something.
Did she say “I’m in love with your love for me?”
Three laps of the continent later, the horizon was inverted.
A man in a lizard skin mask danced on the seesawing highway.
Climbing spikes appeared, vanished and reappeared
as unpredictably as highland spring sunshine,
but their comings and goings weren’t as erratic as Celeste.
My eyes tasted the sunrise.
Sunday morning’s ration of affection
rendered strawberry studded Vita Brits,
buried in passion fruit yogurt,
blander than a plate of lettuce.
We trekked through suburban bushland,
to a body, mind and spirit expo.
The closed eyes of an uncannily accurate medium
said more about cold reading than the Sceptics Society.
Tarot was more fun than any gambling game.
A botanical mystic claimed telepathic plants speak English.
This wasn’t news to Celeste.
On the way home, at an unfamiliar crossroads,
my confidence vanished like Lake Eyre in a drought.
‘Dream it, live it’ was carved on the shoulder
of a sandstone marathoner.
‘The Horizon’ was embossed on the back
of Celeste’s marble double.
A hammer and chisel wielding figure,
in the undergrowth, disappeared like a fox.
His face was hidden beneath a lizard skin mask.
In my last ever conversation with Celeste
I discovered she couldn’t recall our first kiss,
my quirky stories about my stint as a football team mascot,
or which continents I’d visited.
It was an impressive feat of apathy
from someone who could swipe the pieces from a chessboard,
and remember their co-ordinates hours later.
I heard she’s engaged to constable Brett Clydesdale,
a man whose thinking is as black and white as chess pieces.
His patrol car has been graffittied eight times
since they shacked up.