poems by Ian Smith

 Brochure as Memento Mori


Former Calulu Post Office it says, High Ceilings.

Lots of Shedding conjures a wry verb.

Verandahs, Porches, twist my heart with love

as artless as these framed angles are artful.

Historic Old Charmer the board blares.

I am up for auction, I jest, but nobody laughs. 




View from an attic window


Fields of frost below, early days of writing,

shucking the duvet on runny nose mornings

to fill pages instead of slouching off to work

quickened me, my dream world manifested.

I didn’t know about nearby Adlestrop station,

had never heard of Edward Thomas’s poem.


Rain on wind protested at the window

of my attic I probably called a garret,

ruffled rooks high above sheltering horses.

A gas heater on castors by my side

like a metallic seeing-eye dog-cum-desk,

collected a pattern of Olympic coffee rings.


I backpacked on after winter toting an archive,

crisscrossing latitude and longitude’s grid,

an urge to arrest smell, sight, sound,

a selfish kind of love like a secret luring me.

Now at ground level I feed a wood stove,

outside, attendant currawongs, different crows.


I squeeze into my navy pea-jacket

worn those years gone, heavy with silence,

the spare button in its silken pocket

to finger-fiddle, conjure past voices,

a high window, a view, a fierce fever,

breath steaming through the strainer of memory.




Something on my mind


Karen Dalton singing on You Tube is like a drug.

Her throaty voice grabs me by the throat

the way a tolling bell might summon me.

To what?  Something left?  The churning past?


I have flexed scornful wit on pop music.

Now this song evokes old iron bridges,

crossing them slowly, sultry light flickering,

especially its start, that plaintive Yesterday.


I want to rush back, keep her above ground,

save Karen headed for dead-set trouble

even as she pours out a wounded life,

save myself this heartaching regret.




Looking Back on Anger


I never saw the ending of Look Back in Anger.

Engrossed in the film of John Osborne’s play

which I hadn’t seen, nor yet theatres from inside,

I watched on TV in hospital until lights out.

Left hanging, I objected but it was no use.

Protesting, a trait of mine, always led to scenes.


Ah, films of plays, relationships in settings.

My earliest memories of soot-laden suburbia,

the bricked-up arches of dubious gentility,

flooded my senses from camera angles as I saw

the places that described me though I now know

it was the angry dialogue’s echo effect.


Do we need to know how stories of others end

because we are stuck with our own, mine a time

of exhaust fumes filling the bus terminus,

of coupons, football scores, not enough money,

of a damaged family stuck in life’s labyrinth,

stained after surviving the chaos of war?


Shall I ever see the finale of Jimmy Porter’s anger?

Despite so many old films on late-night TV

transporting those of us whose dreams jangle,

that black-and-white film eludes me, never listed.

Was his degree rewarded with a satisfying job?

Did he emigrate, re-marry, write, calm down?


poems by Ian Smith

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