I collect currency—
in the shadow of gothic arches,
pile up towers of silver and gold.
I hoard them in the dash
or toss them into pouches;
two gold, one silver
for the tollway,
three smaller gold
for the parking metre.
As bank notes enter
my purse, I spin them into coin—riches
for a counterfeit poverty.
On the library steps
I search my book-laden bag
. . . more change for cappuccino.
The weight of the NAMES,
gilt-lettered on leather spines,
labelled on these locked office doors.
I clutch my empty purse,
my blank-lined page.
I still need two gold coins
and a silver for the trip home.
I met Miles Franklin shopping for a blue dress.
Her snub-nose turned up at the pink and the green:
she wanted blue, only blue, the unclouded colour
of the Australian sky on a clear autumn day.
I followed her, unnoticed, into the change-room
and watched as she undid her nineteenth-century laces.
She threw away the corset her feminist friends decried;
slipped into a nylon jersey evening dress, electric blue
with matching feathers. The sweeping scarf
hanging from the halter-neck-line swirled and flirted
as she twirled, and rose into the air, like the riding crop
of Brent of Bin Bin, dancing over the plains of Brindabella.
© Julie Thorndyke
first published in Five Bells 2010
I picked some self-sown violets
from my driveway edge this morning
they were wet with rain
entwined with the stems
of wild sarsaparilla—
unopened buds purple at the tips
each year this vine re-grows
despite the pruning and digging
of heavy handed men
I recall a viewing of Dogwoods
the agent’s smile fading
as our faces dimmed
with the sad aura
of the musty brick villa
I stood in the doorway…
so few rooms—were they
as cold and stale then as now?
tessellated tiles on the verandah,
cracked and broken from years of riding
this travelling clay soil
wooden-framed screen doors
closed against insects
the faint echo of a wheeze
in the beige, fifties kitchen
where night by night the words of Tree of Man
struggled for air
twenty years before my teacher
tried to interpret the great grey ordinariness
in a hot concrete classroom
looking for plot
in the bushfire, the flood, the fortitude
of the Australian everyman
when all the time the action
was in the blade of grass, the milk bucket, the fly
and a thousand unseen stars
twinkling beneath a heaving ribcage
answering the flicker of their celestial counterparts
in the wheeling, uncommunicative sky
© Julie Thorndyke