• Mike Ladd
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Last Days of the Blockbuster

 

The palette of Degas,

an abstract before its time.

 

Manet’s moon,

Seurat’s grass.

 

The clouds, the snows,

the rooftops.

 

Pissarro’s green dreaming

under boughs—

 

These are the last days 

of the blockbuster.

 

‘You can’t see it

until you stand back’

 

says my old mother,

leaning on my arm.

 

Monet’s same church

in fifteen different lights.

 

We don’t exit

through the gift shop:

 

‘I’ve got more postcards than I could ever use’

she says, ‘even a calendar is risky.’

 

If this was a film

Bach unaccompanied cello

 

would start playing

over the credits.

 

We go back

against the flow,

 

‘It wasn’t much up close

but now I see the reflections.

 

The sky in the water.

The last bit of light.

 

 

 

Occasional Tremors

 

That’s not the Shinkansen coming in

or a rock concert crescendo—

 

that’s the whole tarred-over earth

having a little shimmy.

 

The bass note

goes right through your spine.

 

Don’t rattle those dishes at me:

I know I haven’t done them yet.

 

The map gets crinkled

by deeper routes.

 

In the after-silence one word echoes:

Surface. Surface. Surface.

 

 

 

Widower

(Cleaning Up After a Storm)

 

All calm now as he sweeps the drive.

The garden radio (a beaten transistor)

plays Wild is the Wind by Nina Simone.

 

Tree bark, like torn sleeves,

discarded sashes from a race,

piles in front of his broom.

 

He finds a nest, like a nebula,

inside, the core felted to cup an egg.

Some small life began here before the storm.

 

Like a leaf clings to a tree, Oh my darling cling to me,

For we are creatures of the wind…

Nina’s voice, a deep, burnished moan.

 

Last night, he walked the streets

as the wires were clashing, branches snapping,

bins blown banging along the road,

 

returning in the small hours to this shocked house

from which she has,

irretrievably, gone.

 

 

 

Lismore Flood

 

Barbers’ chairs turn slowly in the current,

dummies in bridal white are baptised

in the brown, uncontrollable river.

 

Blindly the flood reads its way through the bookshop,

prizes opens cabinet drawers in Centrelink

and blurs the files.

 

In the Crystal Shop it muddies the facets,

adds shit notes to the essential oils.

 

The wood from the lumberyard heads downstream

the way it used to do in red cedar days.

 

Afterwards, lower stories vomit their insides out,

line the pavements with a white-goods spume.

 

Through the town there’s a line drawn

on windows and walls.

Friends help mop up. Some stay, some go.

Fans aerate the shells of shops.

 

A notice in the jeweller’s: After thirty years

I was beaten by a raindrop. All commissions 

will be honoured. It may take time.

 

I have your names but some are now illegible.

Please call this number…

 

The swamp oaks make ambiguous sighs

drawing in the water left rippling at their feet.