from Issue #4: Poetry by Morris Lurie


Photo (CC) Rob Deutscher @ Flickr

Photo (CC) Rob Deutscher @ Flickr


In the House of Broken Sticks


In the house of broken sticks
I am placed opposite
a ninety-seven-year-old Scot
who was doing well until the
damn stroke
thin fellow
hollow cheeked
two pairs of fine leather shoes by the side of his bed
brown brogues
walking shoes
stand at attention
I watch him pushing his electric shaver over the
memorised cragscape of his face
a flick of careful comb to arrange his hair
similarly remembered
no need of mirror
a son visits
the conversation is necessarily shouted
what comes next
to his name
a form being filled
he adds the word esquire
and is it me
only me
in the silence of the ward
at four o’clock in the morning
who hears his sudden shout
in apropos response or reaction to God only knows
exactly what
of fuck
and then nothing
that’s it.

Breakfast is difficult
this is the bed to my left
a white-haired woman of style
because it was always just coffee
and a cigarette
which habit became quit when
she fell out of that cab
onto her coccyx
which never mind whatever pain
add the addiction to nicotine
being suffered in anyhow outer silence
but if you’ve been there
and who hasn’t
you’ll know
the back of her is all bone
whatever she wears
cloth in uninterrupted vertical fall
the pain of no meat
but I am pleased to see
first on her bed
and then around her
a silk dressing gown
of the most lustrous red
which says
never mind now
this is me
how I am

Pain beyond description
comes across from the opposite corner
to sit for a moment on my bed
don’t know what it was he says
out of nowhere
no one did
he’s eighty-two
button eyes above a beard
wife in every day to visit
its nice to see how they sit together
facing bookends
no need of many words
now it’s the bladder
which seems to have forgotten
if I have it correctly
its proper business of emptying
without shall we say encouragement
which it has to do
four days in a row
before they’ll let him go home
and then it does
he’s astounded
he tells me the amount.

Rehab begins with a listing of goals
resumption of social life
the daily (let’s be modest) half-hour walk
all written down before the first instruction
which is along the corridor to that column
there and back
let’s see how you go
six minutes
now let’s go inside
twice a week is the arrangement
an hour each time
a part of me each time watching the clock to be done
another part trying not
as you’ll understand
and it’s not many sessions before the faces
of familiarity return your nod
and I can’t tell you the warmth
I am here for a pinned hip
but no matter no different
however the cause whatever done
in this commonality of fracture
how we mend and weld.


The Chips

The plan was that country town bookshop
of previous success and ever possibility
Anthony Powell (the early ones) Nabokov Sylvia Townsend Warner
who knows what which is half of it
except a killing clatter alarming the engine
pitched me into the stale smoke smell of a farmhouse
to use if I could their phone
which got me eventually a rope tow
frightening experience
cocky driver
bendy road
to a garage who couldn’t do it
a cemetery a railway station a sandwich
another hour before I’m winched this time
onto a flat-bed truck
to where I was going in the first place
where it’ll be three o’clock before we can look at it
come back then.

It’s most of a mile to the bookshop
down the hill by the lake
where the owner is unfortunately away
but I spend a pleasant time with his son
talking browsing reconsidering the Faulkner biography
(two volumes) I said no to this time and nearly do this time
but don’t
and it’s still just barely two
so I hike up to the botanic gardens on the hill
mooch around read the labels admire the view
to get back to my car finally undone
two mechanics bending like heart surgeons inspecting the valves
the part will take two weeks
better phone first.

So again I’m waiting
this time for the country bus
which when it comes wends and winds like gossip down green lanes
dropping parcels picking up passengers exchanging news and chat
to the railway station into town
a plain passenger now where I started out the day my own man
totally as I thought in charge
watching the landscape out the window growing darker by the minute
unrolling its ribbon past
and when we arrive and I get out what I feel like is a Chinese meal
at the other end of town
where I run
and enjoy
and then grab a cab home
nine o’clock
a whiskey required to put the brakes on at last
wow what a day.

Of which particular occurrence I am put in mind
amongst other occasions
like now
split hip
forced inactivity
how the spirit comes to the boil
like unwatched milk on the stove
when the chips are down
because otherwise



Morris Lurie, to his horror and amazement, finds himself suddenly seventy-five years old.  Where, mere moments ago, he was at Thos Cook in Tangier unwrapping the brown-paper parcel of his first book, Rappaport.  Some three dozen or so others seem to have accrued since – novels, stories, pieces, children’s books. Flying Home, Madness, The Twenty-Seventh Annual African Hippopotamus Race.  His autobiography, Whole Life, won the Bicentennial Banjo Award. Hergesheimer in the Present Tense, a kind of novel in thirty hybrid chapters or stories, is imminent. He has been honoured with the Patrick White Award and a noisy granddaughter.  His love of jazz is unabated.  He lives and works where he was born, in Melbourne.

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