Backtown Boys High School


Feel old, it’s been 50 years

since the screaming sure

I now have a river that is sleek/lazy

her lap takes me like a newborn

& sings the songs of drowners.

Enviro reports reckon dirty, but the government

says there’s jobs to be had upstream

so that has to be good?


When I was 15 I screamed

with a cracked stupid voice

that thought it knew about pain.

There was a boy involved

then a girl.

I was drinking at the pub

where Thommo once served a kid

who had to stand on his globite schoolcase

to see over the counter.


School half-heartedly pretended knowledge

but I was taught elsewhere.

Jerry’s mum gassed herself.

The woman next door to Derek

had been fucking him since he was 11.


They shut down the place.

I stood there last year,

with all its windows broken & few arson scars it

still forced me to be furtive.

Hans became the local mayor

Derek’s tradie shorts are a size bigger each year

& he’s fucking the apprentice.

Jimmy Jones was the apex predator,

word is he couldn’t kick a habit.


There’s been some death

my worn-out arms couldn’t carry Tim’s coffin.

We’d both talk about the school days

in cardigans of forgiveness.

I’d take it in then dump the lot.

We’d laugh.


I look others up,

there is no surprise that

some worked out wiser than me.

Most are divorced.

So much to lose… your mind, your family.


At the local Men’s Shed

we make more than cages & coffins.

The privilege of men

is sometimes set off against

the heap of garbage that we hod.

It doesn’t seem quite real, back of the cupboard stuff

with the tie-dyes & sarongs.

It’s a suit that really needs to see a tailor.


I occasionally come to visit

the forest down my working-class road.

They say you can stand in it & scream.

Cockatoos labour at their nesting hollows

make homes of a world’s rot.

Wallabies peer from the shade —

spectators at a schoolyard brawl.

It hasn’t rained in months

that river down the valley

has asthma.

The peace here folds like paper

could have had solace

perhaps hope

but I scream.


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