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611 Main North Road

uploaded: Mon, Mar 29, 2010 @ 4:06 AM
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611 Main North Road

When we arrived in ’69, the house was standard Housing Trust dark, double brick
sash windows, striped awnings and a long porch.
On summer mornings, sunrise, it was my job to hook the heavy canvas and haul it down,
wielding the metal hook on a wooden pole.
That first summer was sticky and sweet.
Fat plums half-pecked, like road kill
baking on the concrete path
where, later, beneath the plum tree,
my mother planted strawberries along its shaded edge.
Our back yard a labyrinth of trees and vines.
The verandah hung thick with ripening grapes.
A dozen trees – almond, lemon, apricot
orange, apple, peach.
An orchard of shady nooks for hide and seek,
ghost of a cockatoo
the previous owners had hung
in a round metal cage near the back step.

I swear I could hear its grey tongue click through long hot nights
strange metronome, making me miss the odd beat
as I mastered the nylon strings of my first guitar.
and what did I sing to the thick heat, the crickets, the clicking tongue
as I tuned my new Australian voice?
My father, who liked to cut things back,
tore down the vines and orange trees
to make more space for suburban dreams.

In place of oranges, a blue plastic pool liner
stretched over a metal frame; the hose ran all summer
mosquitoes came, like skin bombers
peppering us with itchy bites.
We missed the oranges we used to twist onto rusty nails
in the wooden struts of our galv iron fence
to make holes for sucking juice
but the pool was cool relief to English skin
though it smelt weird under water
and slimed faintly green.

Winter days, the apple tree was wreathed in smoke.
Tiny charred scraps of paper played butterfly to bare branches
then crumbled to the ash dust of its own flight
while my father fed and poked the besser block incinerator
barbequed a few snails –
grey innards hissed, foaming rims in slimy explosions shattering shell;
the hiss and bubble of burning goo, shivered me through
in the glow of its gaping mouth.
and what did I sing to the light moths that heckled my window on winter nights?
as I sat on my bed, in the room I shared with my self,
colouring inside the outlines of shapes.
It wasn’t long before they added a room,
eclipsed the porch and covered the dark brick with paint –
white, orange and brown – I thought it a freak
ugliest house in town.
The extension was a favourite place, with its radiogram and lava lamp.
I’d sit for hours with headphones on
mesmerised by live wax forming and reforming primal shapes
mouthing lyrics to Can the Can.

There were odd weekends when the whole family congregated in my room
with a second-hand tape recorder I’d been given for a birthday
me on guitar, one of us humming through wax paper
(or was it cellophane?) stretched over a wide-toothed comb – yes, cellophane has the right vibrations –
the others with saucepan lids, bells and spoons
or anything slightly musical we could find.

We’d tape those crazy tracks, and it was real fun
when imaginations were unscathed by TV.
When I was almost thirteen, and on the brink of change,
they sold the house. So angry, I wrote all over the wallpaper in my room.

and what did I sing to the unfeeling night
on the back steps with my new guitar
in the thick heat, the crickets; clicking tongue of the cockatoo ghost –
past in my present becoming past?

Then, I struggled to hold back my breaking voice
the thought of new owners
plotting to paint our house green and white
as I sang for the loss of an innocent life

those were the days, my friend
those were the days

(c) Deb Matthews-Zott

"611 Main North Road"
by debbizo

2010 - Licensed under
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Attribution Noncommercial (3.0)

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