Sunday 14 February 2021

Two Brilliant Poems by Stephen House


 

The Moo-Moo Café

 

The Moo-Moo Café (a bamboo hut) is perched on a rocky bank

of Mother Ganga just outside of Rishikesh

a holy pilgrim city and magnet for wandering freaks

(from all over the world).

I’ve been drifting back here for forty years.

 

I’m sitting at a table with The Captain (a nic-name i gave him

a decade ago that stuck). He’s rolling a hash joint

and whinging on about how broke he is (what’s new)

being dumped by - quote “that Russian bastard”

and not being able to unload a ten year old Swiss watch

(still in the original box). He invites me to light up the spliff.

I decline explaining that I quit the stuff since we last met up here a few years ago

to which he says “Is fucking unbelievable” to which I respond

“Not really; sometimes you got to get rid of habits

that have gone from being pleasure into burden.”

 

A cluster of Israeli freaks begin beating drums

and singing a (Bob Marley) hippie classic and an Austrian junky

in a maroon turban with matching drawstring pants

starts a mumbled argument with a skinny dreadlocked German woman

who has been trying to score for two days.

I high five The Captain, leave The Moo-Moo  

 

and walk down a narrow stony track alongside Ganga

until I get to a small river beach surrounded by jungle

where i will begin my morning routine: bathe,

chant to Lord Shiva (one hundred and eight times) on my beads

(I have worn for eighteen years), practise Yoga for one hour

and then maybe visit a Ganesh Sadhu who lives in a cave

in the forest on the other side of the track.

I’m glad to be away from The Moo-Moo and the mob there

 

and while I have a soft spot for The Captain,

(God knows we have been through so much together)

and I carry oodles of sentiment for the months

(or probably years) I have spent lost in that crazy place,

I do know as a slip into the icy sacred water of Mother Ganga

gushing down from the Himalayas in the distance

that it is definitely time to say goodbye 

to The Moo-Moo Café forever… and so I do:

 “Goodbye Moo-Moo

thank-you for whatever it was you gave to me.”

 

 

Caroline

 

at first i do think Caroline is my admirer

that’s her name          

Caroline

i know this now

 

i asked her

when i found this café thing

or whatever the fuck it is

a bar               

another dive of a club

a house even 

it could be Caroline’s house

 

is this your house Caroline?

 

she laughs and keeps doing what she’s doing

fussing around with a fancy leather strap

and on and off her stupid phone

 

she invited me in as i hovered

wet and shivering       

like an old sick dog

in the alley out there

by the door     

just before

 

a home is a home i suppose queen Caroline

i can’t tell anymore

 

is this or isn’t this your house Caroline?

 

so when i first got here

i did think she was my admirer

ive been looking for one for a while

it’s been forever                     

since i’ve had a real admirer

especially now           

with the way everything’s going

it’s been ages since i’ve been in love

with a woman

or man

loved anyone actually

or have been loved by more than a cat

 

a ginger cat living in a lane

by a room i slept in a few times

loved me

a cat and a love          

and a long lonely lane

to a damp windowless room

 

and it’s no fun living in room with no window

not even a flick of light

but i think i’m ready to love a person again

 

a woman or man

and i’m loving her now

in her silver high heels           

Caroline

 

do you love me Caroline?

 

and i smile inside at the way she saved me

from a sure bashing this morning

 

was that this morning Caroline by the bar?

 

she doesn’t answer

she’s in a deep conversation

with another human   

who just came in to this place

after the last one left

 

i don’t need another bashing

after that other time    

at dawn

by a filthy canal         

not long ago 

no way

my bones are getting too brittle

for face hitting shit

my temperament is too fucking fragile

for smashing and kicking                   

and crying out blood

 

was that behind the all-night bar

in the lost moment this morning Caroline?

 

i’m feeling safer now

with her

in this place

whatever it is

whoever we are

 

are you still here Caroline?

Caroline?

 



Stephen House is an award winning Australian playwright, poet and actor. He’s won two Awgie Awards (Australian Writer’s Guild) , Adelaide Fringe Award, Rhonda Jancovich Poetry Award for Social Justice, Goolwa Poetry Cup, Feast Short Story Prize and more. He’s been shortlisted for Lane Cove Literary Award, Overland’s Fair Australia Fiction Prize, Patrick White Playwright and Queensland Premier Drama Awards, Tom Collins Poetry Prize, Greenroom best actor Award and more. He’s received Australia Council literature residencies to Ireland and Canada, and an India Asia link. His chapbook “real and unreal” was published by ICOE Press Australia. He is published often and performs his work widely.







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