The wonderful poet Bruce Dawe died on 1 April 2020, aged 90. The poem below was one of my first pieces of published work. 1981. It has quite a few internal references – phrases adapted from titles of Bruce Dawe poems.
Summer sellout (for Bruce Dawe)
How to go on not looking
How not to believe
You book’s going cheap. Saw it
in the ninety-nine cent bin. Well,
a stack of them in fact.
Drew a line through the dust –
Touching is seeing is believing.
‘What about these here?’
‘Been there months, Harry, months.’
The unknowing storemen just
Tossed the books into the sellout bin,
with the cheap thrillers going cheap and
novels from movies from scripts from
some original idea
(some enchanted evening)
lost long ago.
This same book I carried everywhere:
back-pocket, rucksack, glovebox.
It was the proverbial lamp and mirror.
It was a personal discovery, all my own.
Held it close with teenage enthusiasm and privacy.
But sentiment is just this dust on my finger
I won’t even know when I wash it off.
In a Chapel St bookshop there’s a summer sellout.
Your poems have no fixed address,
just drifters in a chopped-down forest.
Will you accept my condolences of the season?
First published The Bulletin Literary Supplement, December 1981.
People pushed through the gates into the kerosene canary
Flying East away from red dust and dreams
Catching rubber on tar life screaming back
Slowly breathing time deceiving stomach churning
Through the door anxious to the core many thoughts ignore
Search for peace in still water arms churning lungs burning
Swimming the ghosts away but still I can hear them say
The desert is calling