Chris Chapman

Poème en prose


(walks) up the street, of any inner suburban domain. up the laneway, into the main street, on the corner is a smart italian restaurant, but those people eating their $25 vongole at the stainless-steel tables on the footpath, aren’t they a little freaked by the:

drunk homeless guy,
hungry punters from the TAB passing to the milkbar for their burger,
lesbo chick with shaven head,
local non-anglo teens in homeboy uniform …?

on the bus: it’s 11 am. the british tourist couples in their sixties move so the scraggly but i’m sure perfectly respectably eccentric guy gets up to get off. his passage to the centre door is clear but he wants to disembark via the front door. that’s cool.

on the train: why is that elderly middle eastern guy looking at me? is he?

HEARS (on railway platform): happy holidays! (teacher to students).

HEARS (on train, upstairs) the aboriginal girls in the two big seats in front making fake cosmetic ads and laughing loudly. when they leave their names and a diagram of the ABORIGINAL FLAG is tagged on the vinyl seat.

from the windows of the train: terrace houses, industrial buildings, shopping centres, cheap apartment blocks, the olympic park, a mosque.

at the front of the bread shop is a stack of styro cartons full of market garden greens and a cardboard sign “70cents”.

URBAN TIP: when passing someone say HELLO, or nod so.

April 2002


What a strange turn of events, an unexpected path my days have taken. An introspection that seems inevitable surrounds me.

This sense of being treads a path between internalism, and absorption. The pleasure gained can be immense and heartening, when there is a feeling that the flow is all that there is, which of course is the case.

Sometimes this approaches a state of meditation, of shikantaza, “themeless sitting in zazen, that is, abondoning all thoughts of good or bad, enlightenment or illusion, and just sitting.” (John Stevens, Introduction to One Robe, One Bowl, The Zen Poetry of Ryokan, Weatherhill, Tokyo (1977) 1979, page 15.)

This is especially good for afternoons, say, at the northern parkland at Bondi Beach, and watching the people, the weather, recognising the colour of the sky and ocean change gradually.

And sometimes in a state of half-sleep a similar feeling emerges where there is a floating sensation, the mind half aware of external reality, half aware that it is dreaming.

February 2002


Down the stairs into the western Elizabeth Street entrance to the underground railway. I buy a return ticket to the Cross, browse some magazines and eventually take the escalator down to the platform where I’ve just missed one train but the next will arrive in seven minutes. I walk halfway along the almost empty platform and sit on a benchseat. I’m casually looking to my right in an unfocussed kind of way, and when the guy, who is walking in my direction, is about six feet away, I consciously realise I had noticed his sandals, second-hand brown suitpants, red zip-up sports jacket (also retro), and his good looking and scruffy head. I’m snapped out of my daydream by a doubletake because he looks briefly familiar, and because he sits on the bench next to me.

I think nothing more of it after the train arrives and at Kings Cross I take the Victoria Street exit. For some reason I’m a bit surprised at how leafy-green the street is, and I’m in daydream land again, enjoying the atmosphere: the cafes, the backpackers’ hostels, the backpackers. I turn right into whatever street it is that heads back up to Macleay Street just where the post office is (on the quiet side of the park with the fountain), head into the section where the post boxes are, and emerge with a magazine I’d contributed to and Money Mark’s latest cd I had ordered over the net. Outside, in the sun, I decide to open the plastic magazine pack to see if the cheque for my writing is in there too, thinking I could walk up the street and bank it. I’d considered sitting on some stone steps in the sun, but instead use the chest-high sandstone wall right beside them as a shelf to peruse my mail. Well, the cheque must be mailed separately, no problem. I’m absorbed in flicking through the mag to find my review and to see what else is in it, and then I notice that sitting on the steps right there is the scruffy/cute guy smoking a cigarette.

Weird. Then things got decidedly weirder. I met J at X gallery and checked out the work which was nice. A couple of beers with J started things off, really. Then dinner at the great SuperBowl Chinese restaurant in Goulburn Street. We’d taken a six pack and had two left so I suggested we wander down to the nearby southern end of Darling Harbour to sit by the water and drink the remaining two bottles. We’re passing an open-air Japanese restaurant and bar full of people when J recognises his friend S who is involved with the said event – a function for the promoters of the current tennis tournaments, and their guests. She invites us in where we proceed to consume complimentary beverages for at least a couple of hours.

Stupidly, instead of grabbing a taxi and heading home, I take one up to Oxford Street. I meet a very nice guy who is a chef at one of Sydney’s most fashionable restaurants, then, on some kind of whim, decide to take a walk but not before buying a disposable camera and kindly requesting streetfolk to pose for my documentary snaps. Then I call in to the Stonewall for a vodka, and, taken by a particularly humourous advertisement in the boys’ room, leave a note on the bar with my empty glass requesting the bar staff to phone me if I’m able to have one of the posters when they change them over. This is after I’d tried unsuccessfully to remove one from its perspex display-frame myself. Hey, it gets worse.

Another camera purchased and another walk around the neighbourhood and now the sky is starting to lighten. Back to the Oxford Hotel for a bloody mary (!), and a chat to a charming Torres Strait Islander, for whom I offer to buy breakfast for at Bondi Beach. As I do. Before that we’d sat on the beach for a while, and afterwards bussed it back into the city and spent a couple of hours dozing on the lawn beneath a Moreton Bay fig in the Botanic Gardens.

I now have four disposable cameras as testimonials to this and two previous all-nighters. Fucking hell. The photographs should be either very interesting and inspired, or uselessly bad. That is, unless I find myself without the money required to process them because I’d spent it all on alcohol and breakfasts. I don’t want to think about how much of my rapidly dwindling savings I chewed through last night. Oh well; all in the service of a supremely enjoyable, if slightly out-of-control, time. It is the big city after all. And I haven’t found myself in a tricky situation yet, save for the assumption being made, on two occassions, that I was a cop. Maybe my unusual photography subject matter had something to do with it, and possibly the fact that on one evening I arrived at Taylor Square in a cab immediately after police officers had blitzed numerous nightclubs in the vicitiny for the presence of amphetamines and ecstasy. No wonder I was mistaken for a Narc.

After a couple of hours of fitfull pesudosleep (recalling details of last night vividly), my brother and his mate C and I walked the few blocks up to the Belgian Beer cafe, under faint rain, blue dusk, and purple jacaranda flowers (which are everywhere in Sydney). There we drank some Hoegaarden beers and I left them to it for more. Settling instead for a toasted cheese and ham sandwich here. And now I’m listening to the pretty acoustic sounds and vocals of the Norwegian boys Eirik and Erlend of ‘Kings of Convenience’. With the clarity and sweetness of morning rain, is how I would describe their cd ‘Quiet is the New Loud’.

November 2001

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