It’s time to go now, so tie up your shoe laces and we’ll walk.
The tram stop is down the corner and the Excelsior’s singing pokies,
a morning bird chorus. Pink fluoresces with yellow sodium,
blue lights. These are the colours of emergency and easy money.
There is where the old brewery was, now an empty lot.
Climbing tower and weathered silo dare you to bring your torch
and scare the pigeons. Just over there, the Somali kids stabbed Bob
in the lung, reaching for his tobacco to offer a begged rollie.
Opened up, he crawled up the street to slump at his front door.
Here is the shop where hundreds of cocks jerked-off to ‘Classic Hits’
on piped-in music, another hundred bucks, another half hour,
and another set of warm holes. There is the flat where you died
for three magic minutes. Raised from the dead, Jesus saved you.
Also, ambos and electricity. On the corner, there, Gianni got run over
one Wednesday. Rumours of his wealth reduced your generosity,
he cursed you often for not-enough begged beer money, and a souvlaki.
This is the pub where we sat in the locked toilet cubicle, silent,
slack-mouthed, just like that bitch with the tin-can on Russell Street,
who disguised crushed Panadol for an eighty-dollar deal.
There’s our old house where the police came, when Mark busted in
the front door ‘cause he couldn’t climb over razor wire out back.
His DIY impulses failed the repair. Now every junky in town wants in.
We climbed on the balcony with cigarettes, long-necks of beer,
avoiding holes in the floorboards, on western afternoons. It’s easy to say,
but it was a frontier. Now, you and I are already moving on.
LISTEN to ‘Departure Lounge’ by Kate McKinstry
Kate McKinstry grew up in West Auckland and has lived in Christchurch, Taipei, London, Antibes, New York, Perth, Melbourne, and Wellington. She is a graduate of the IIML and her work has been published in Turbine 2010, Sport, and Landlfall.
McKinstry comments: ‘Lots of people want to live in the country, at the beach or in the bush. Not me – I want to live in a bigger city – louder, dirtier, grubbier, more dangerous. I was trying to write a place from memory into reality by walking it. It began as an experiment in metre and rhythm, from an exercise provided in a creative writing class, and I attempted to constrain it syllabically. The poem, though, had its own imperative and made its own length and shape, walking through the inner-city suburbs of Melbourne and remembering the life that the poetic couple had been living.
‘They pass through their urban environment with the same attention to the romantic detail of a walk in the country. There are derelict buildings, homeless people, prostitutes, drug-use, violence and a corner pub with pokie machines. It’s not beautiful, but the poem wants to remember it all faithfully – what else can you do except walk through. When I go back to Melbourne, it’s all there, the memories and the old sense of “sureness”. Last year I read the Mark Doty essay “A Tremendous Fish”, reporting Elizabeth Bishop’s response thirty years after she wrote “The Fish”: “That's exactly how it happened. I did catch it just as the poem says.” “Departure Lounge” wants to catch something too. I’m no Bishop, but that’s how it all happened, exactly.’
‘Eurydice learns about snake bites’ in Turbine 2010