would have been

            

               coffin 2            

 

orchestral stillness

                                                                                   ten days

                                                  womb dead

          why resurrection refused…?

                                                                 “faith is evidence unseen…”

                                                                                                                       no hope hoax

visage almost abstract

                         passive icon

                                      flat faced

                                             skull collapse

                                                   water-bottle wobble

                                                                               neck flop

                                                                                          limbs limp

                                                                                                  dark eyes blank

                                                                                                              black hair vibrant

                                                                                                                        flesh petal-peeled

                      

                                                                                               paternal coward!

                                                                            her frowning  forehead            

                                                                     kissed     

                                                                           just                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              once

                                                                                                                               Lawrence Louis Holly grave

Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely, so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. – Deuteronomy 4 : 9

                                                                               

                                                                

                                                                                                                                               

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Boarding School Summer Scenes

Photos: Dora Kazmierak https://www.instagram.com/dorakazmierak/

 

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1.

‘On The Boards’ blared from boarding school dorms,

sunny afternoons, fondly-recalled second form:

Rory* sang raw and raucous, urban blues,

denim dressed, unpretentious, paid rock dues.

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2.

See sporty mini-skirted girls, hear ricochet ping,

tennis ball bounce off taut racquet strings:

shyly watched, well-practiced their aversion,

tanned limbs, taut t-shirts tempt court incursion.

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3.

Authors and artists from library books beckoned,

upstairs I ascend, teen intellectual, fecund:

biblio hush almost holy, few desks populated,

sun-warm wood-panelled walls vastly under-rated.

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Suburb Silenced by Snow

 

Suburb silenced by snow,

landscape lit by lunar glow,

muted the avian allegro.

 

Hatted, coated, booted walk,

scarved mouth muffles talk,

spinning tyres skid-squawk.

 

Sculpture-skeletal naked trees,

air stunned, ambushed breeze,

dogs frolic, undeterred by freeze.

 

After winter walk I sit by fire,

dancing flames I silently admire,

wine and warmth now required.

 

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Boarding School Troubled Teen

Whenever it is discovered that someone attended boarding school, the focus of conversation gets interesting questions. Is it really like the Harry Potter novels? What was the food like? Did you join the pillow-fights? Did many run away?

Girls frequently ran away. One of my girlfriends did. So did I. It was quite unusual for a boy to run away. As you will read, I ran away after being beaten up by a master. I was returned the same night by my naieve mother, persuaded by the headmaster ….

photo: Dora Kazmierak

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Pulled by long mop top hair,

pushed down two flights of stairs,

the master had the upper hand,

I tumbled terrified – (you understand….)

 

Fists impacted my frame, furiously,

border-boys peered out windows, curiously

not even the prefects intervened –

I was utterly all alone, it seemed…

 

Reluctantly I apologised – (because sore)

the beating stopped – but not the score:

my empty school desk evident next day,

a homebound train carried me away.

 

Silly mother sent me back same night:

(just before Easter) – educators always right;

collected from the station by worried headmaster:

teen defiant drama turned into pastoral disaster.

 

Confidences disclosed: my father’s school debt;

self-exile silently decided (with much regret)

sealed by stupidity, this fragile teen’s fate:

overburdened by far too much family freight…

 

Decades later, I walked through those doors:

O sweet remembered scent, waxed parquet floors.

Newtown: I got my first good-start there.

Newtown: reluctantly I left my heart there.

 

Fifteen of us re-united thirty years after,

much poignancy present but also laughter,

gone master’s name, not worth a mention;

thankful for kinder teachers, many detentions.

 

Newtown, you fed my hope-hungry heart,

you almost-redeemed me with music and art;

I still yearn those years, I’m so easily upset:

how to repay so tremendous a debt….?

Boarding School Bullies Failed…

In November 2016 I revisited Newtown, my old boarding school. I brought along my friend / photographer, Dora, to capture the spirit of that fondly-recalled, foundational place. Like others, I was bullied a bit but the senior sadists didn’t break my spirit….I was much helped at the time by the happy, hopeful top-ten gospel song, ‘O Happy Day’.

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photo: Dora Kazmierak

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Remembered: the drop-kick ball slap,

cheek-sting, my spectacles misshaped

  • feared that full force whack.

Other juniors distracted, I escaped

repeat impact then; often terror trapped

in the junior common room: one exit only:

senior hyena-laughter, first-form boy lonely.

 

Scared by the sound of ball-ricochet bang.

On the valve radio a black mass choir:

how hopeful those one-time slaves sang,

Hawkins almost set this soul on fire:

‘O happy day’ the gospel anthem rang.

Bullies failed to beat up this boy’s heart:

boarding school safe shelter, emotional ark.

Dawn Squeezes Through Unbuttoned Shutters

 

dawnWintry wind tunnel-tumbles through trees:

engine-insistent, vacuuming bare boughs;

my early a.m. sleep is stolen successfully.

 

Awakened, yawning, at least luke-warm:

mattress generous, antique four poster:

snug-soft pillows, duvet bosom-plump.

 

Short-sighted, grappling the stubborn switch,

reluctantly turned on, bedside light soft,

thoughts typewriter-tapped on a black tablet.

 

Dawn squeezes through unbuttoned shutters,

I cold water wash, don un-warm clothes,

descend the dark draughty sweep of stair.

 

Last night’s stove ash, silken silver slivers

poked through grate gaps, void cast-iron cold,

chopped log inferno-flames worry the window.

Boarding School Scrapbook Scenes

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Harboured from harm by high stone walls,

unacademic and sports-coach never called;

– spartan-lunches schooled us in justice,

Quaker-soaked silence this rebel trusted.

 

O sweet those three special girls adored,

shoe-skidded those waxed parquet floors;

readily I joined rowdy-night pillow fights,

unsanctioned walks in early-dawn light.

 

Long-anticipated each supper dance,

psychedelic strobes, surreptitious glances;

late-sixties student, born to be wild:

underground sounds, flower child.

 

Art, English and Music held appeal,

nothing else needed, my Achilles Heel;

grateful for many issued detentions,

bullies long-gone, names I won’t mention.

 

School report true: my existence “aimless”

my challenging conduct, far from blameless;

this academic failure, sometime class clown –

still missed old school – farewell Newtown…

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photos: Dora Kazmierak www.instagram.com/dorakazmierak/

First Night Lights-Out

I had always been an adventurous child. Being the youngest of three, I was frequently the first for any new experience: smoking, kissing girls, solo travels and boarding school. That boarding school experience was both the making and unmaking of me. I have an unutterable fondness for all that Newtown School gave me…

 

First Night ‘Lights Out_

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Five Old-Fashioned Home-made Hats

Since the mid-1970s I have been a closet Slav. I learned all about Russia through human rights and travel books, mainly. In 2008 I got the opportunity to visit that huge troubled country. On my last day there I stumbled on a ‘babushka’ selling gaudy coloured, acrylic knitted hats.

Illustration: katyazhu.com

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I.

A drab coat covered her plain pinafore,

her battered boots had seen better days

– unobtrusively, this old woman stood

on a St. Petersburg street corner,

silently holding up five crocheted hats.

 

She didn’t utter any plaintive, pleading pitch,

nor held any crude cardboard, Cyrillic sign,

advertising her five old-fashioned hats…

She showed no Soviet scowl,

nor naive hopeful smile:

– crushed by cruel Communism,

– pauperised by promising Perestroika

– conscripted into crony Capitalism…

 

No kindness offered from fellow citizens,

nor purchase made by this troubled tourist.

O, babushka! O, grandmother!

You waited on summer streets

offering gaudy-coloured hats for sale…

 

II.

I entered the Spilt Blood Church

where heaven-haunted old icons

glowed gold, heaven-blue and blood-red,

depicting Byzantine biblical characters

who entreated us to remember eternity:

parables reprimanded the rich.

 

At the church shop, assistants refused

to change my large rouble note.

O, babushka! I bought an unwanted beer

to brake my note and buy from you

a baby hat that I certainly did not need.

 

III.

O, babushka! I re-traced my journey

in the vain hope of making you smile.

O, babushka! Now apparently absent…

until suddenly, I spied your ghost

selling foil-wrapped garden flowers:

mere daisies, clovers and ferns.

I bought the second last bunch

and departed before change offered.

 

Again I spied your ghost, closing-up

a  well-travelled, stained suitcase,

filled with a blizzard of paper icons.

I prayed for you in pain, as I pressed

hope into your grubby-lined palm:

an act of inadequate atonement…

 

IV.

Who can I send to St. Petersburg?

Who can buy me five home-made hats?

Sing, minor-chord Orthodox mass-choirs!

O bell sequence riotously ring!

O gold-robed priest, let incense-censer swing!

Pained prayers ascend candle-lit icons.

 

O weeping widow – prostrate, praying

before the altar of the Everlasting

– do you now smile at the Saviour’s touch?

Are you succoured by His abundant care?

Did He open “heaven’s windows” for you?

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Heaven’s windows” is a reference to Malachi 3: 10: ‘I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in….’