The pavement is a narrow procession
of footsteps returning home in darkness.
There is a raw gas-smell past Island Street,
the rancidness of lamb-fat that clings
to plum-coloured brickwork. A palm tree
rustles perpetually through the windless night
with percussion of heavy plastic.
There is a crumbling border a child might walk
tentatively, giddy with the danger of falling
into fathoms of lantana. As you follow in sequence,
muffling your pursuing steps, you notice
the graded curvature of hairstyle against the nape,
the way jeans shape and angle the leg,
the sculpting of muscle by the tilt of heels.
You pass the private hotel with all
its yellow windows lit, Victorian and ornate,
transient figures flitting within its walls,
a church illuminated by orange spotlights,
the fluorescence of a shop you have never entered –
then turn from the stream of commuters, down
a street which has the same name as your own.
John Hawke is a Sydney poet currently teaching at Monash University in Melbourne.