Long Division


Poem to Forget about Love

Poem to Forget about Love 

Like a galah flying over

The Swan Coastal Plain, from hills 

And granite breakaways,

From tall marri and jarrah

From firebreaks, and English dams,

From the Brixton St wetlands,

And the Serpentine Falls 

Where the gilgies hatch their eggs,

And the jiddy jiddy keep their eyes

On the protectors, those who work

With the land, like a galah

Using their faned-tail to balance

On a powerline during a vicious front.

I return from the scarp, loaded

With valueless presents, my thoughts

And feelings, and an irrational sense

Of optimism, and go for a long walk —

I became one of those weirdos who run

Through the centre of town, with my shirt on, 

Of course, I’m not that weird,

And, huffing, pull up outside her work, 

And pretend to read the black menu

Covered in perspex and peer through the window, 

Hoping she’s there, hoping to see her once more.

But I’m glad she isn’t — in the end

I am a kind of weirdo,

My intrigue has me obsessed

My intrigue and my intrigue alone has me blinded,

Because she might not have given me

Another thought, she might have

Rearranged the table number on the silver stand, 

Silver like a galahs feather

And knocked off, returned home

To her partner, to her love filled house

And nearly reported a little tale 

About this intense guy who came 

Into her work and ordered a vanilla thick shake, 

And shook her hand and smiled

And who mistakenly took that as a sign 

That she liked him, that his spirit

From walking on the land 

Had found some place inside her

That his channeling of the galah

Spirit let him stand out from the others.

He was the one who saw the echidna 

And said ‘her name is D’,

He was the one who saw the wallabies and said, 

‘Hello, her name is D’.

Who ran after the emus with their shimmering rachis,

Shouting, ‘her name is D, her name is D’,

And who re-entered The Hamburger Restaurant

And ordered another thick shake, 

Because he can’t eat burgers — he can’t eat animals 

Can’t eat the flesh off those he loves,

And who he runs after telling them tales,

Telling the cockatoos and cows that he loves them. 

Maybe she kept the story secret. 

From her partner or her best friends,

Because she didn’t want any connection to be true,

There was a fleeting moment, that’s all,

Nothing to follow up, no reason 

To feel like we belonged together in some way:

Two galahs flying high above the canopy,

Straffing on gusts and calling to one another: 

Where are you? Where are you?

You know what I start doing,

I start selling myself, 

I start packaging myself up,

As if I were a hamburger, 

As if I could be packaged

In a certain way, in order for you

To make sense of me, my past, 

And where I might predictably go in the future.

At times, in certain circumstances 

I long to listen to other languages 

To meter out the emotion

And to ignore the words meaning,

To hear the cadence and intonation 

But to ignore how the words intend

That way I can make up my own logic

From the elapsed signature of speech.

These infatuations feel like an illness. 

They begin in my imagination 

And reach out into my hands

And cross my chest diagonally, 

And they keep me awake

Even when I’m exhausted

From walking 140km in two days.

I stay awake compounding 

The infatuation until the ‘other’

Cannot possibly fulfil any fantasy

Because they’re my fantasies 

And they grow with my longing

And as my longing grows

I dig a pit in my stomach 

That makes me feel ill

Makes me feel cramped around my torso 

Like my ribs are cracked 

And I’m being disciplined for my stupidity,

For believing that love can exist,

Even temporarily, for as long

As longing can be in your eyes

Or on your tongue, these words

That rub against your teeth

Must find an outlet. 

In the morning, after putting my dirty clothes

In the machine and saying hello to Olive

The dog who licks my feet and shakes her tail

And stares at me as I walk up the stairs,

In the morning I turn my obsession 

With writing, and reading and walking, 

Which are all really the same thing, 

The same middle-class preoccupations, 

To the woman at the Hamburger Restaurant,

My brain makes way for a new obsession:

Turn the coffee machine on, (woman

At the hamburger joint), read two lines

From Wittgensteins Novel’s, (woman 

At the hamburger joint), scratch my forearm, 

(Woman at the hamburger joint). My brain

Plays ping pong with the woman, D,

From the hamburger joint, who, perhaps, 

Doesn’t even think of me, doesn’t see me 

And most probably doesn’t get obsessed 

With strangers and phantoms, the woman, who

In all likeliness has a control of her emotions, 

(Woman at the hamburger joint), isn’t crazy

Like you, Jimmy, she knows what she wants, 

She isn’t capricious and romantic, you fool.

I must, in order to continue on the track I started, 

The days before the woman at the hamburger

Joint became an episode, I must diminish 

In my thoughts her stature, I must take her down

From the pedestal I have placed her on,

There in the hamburger joint, and I must, in order

To continue as before, belittle her, 

For she is but a common waitress

A waitress among millions, billions

Of other waitresses who serve hamburgers

And sandwiches and coffee and thick shakes

The world over. I am so fickle that today

I could meet another woman who works

In a hamburger joint and fall head over heels

Obsessed with her as well, drowning in a sea

Of my own making — drowning

Like someone who never learned to swim

And who takes to the diving board

And plunges headlong into an Diving

Pool named Obsession, and who suffers 

Like a drowned, wet, fool, because of the woman 

At the hamburger joint. 

I had a pen and a book.

And I wanted to mark the book

With the pen, to draw a line

Next to the text that I wanted 

To return to, wanted to extract

And even, maybe, wanted to remember. 

But deep down I didn’t want a pen.

I wanted a pencil. 

I needed a pencil as well as a pen.

A pencil to draw a line next to parts 

I wasn’t sure I needed, and a pen

To draw a vertical line next to the lines

I was sure of.  

I could not speak to the book. 

The book spoke to me,

In certain ways and those ways

Could not be altered or changed,

Only highlighted, so as to draw

The attention of my eye

When that page was open. 

Unsure, and peppered with doubt,

I needed a pencil 

Because you could reject me and if you rejected me

I could go back to the book 

And erase every line I drew vertically 

Beside the paragraphs.

And thus erase you from my memory, 

And erase the shame of my behaviour. 

But I only had a pen

And the permanency hurt. 

I was vulnerable and clumsy. 

I had lost my cool. 

I had become someone 

Who you read about, not someone 

You know, someone who no longer 

Lived their days as if on a stage,

As if he was an actor about to switch

Out of character once the curtains drew closed. 

I only had a pen. And. I went 

And bought more pens

In case the ink ran out. 

These loose threads, these structureless days 

Now fall under the sway

Of the burning suffering desire, 

An addiction to an un-manifest 

Ride that’s hiding the puppeteer. 

I can just make out the strings, 

Can you see them? The light has to be just right, 

There. Yes. now you see. 

No. No. 

Don’t cut the threads. 

The threads hurt, but without the puppeteers,

Without the strings that pull us into the uncertain, 

Empty future, we are lost — we have to make 

Up own own minds, we have to go with our own hearts, 

And then we have to feel what’s in our hearts 

And without strings and threads pulling us along,

Our feelings are disorientated,  

And soon we don’t care what’s in our hearts, 

And when we have no care, we never run for the bus or the train, 

Without strings, thoughts of suicide 

Ride in our bloodstream, without strings we grow dirty roots

And those roots dig deep, deeper than we want

Deeper than we can handle,

Deeper than the night is dark,

And longer than the night is long,

And, when we have had enough, 

When we have cried and cried,

And when we have snot running into our mouths,

And when we are weak,

And fetal,

And hold our heads with our hands

Wrapped over our skulls

We ask for our strings to be reattached.

Bahrain, she said, as she made me another vanilla thick shake. 

Six years, she said, since she and her parents moved here.

And then I asked if she would like to go out with me,

And she said she had a boyfriend and I said Nooooo,

And then, clearly, an obstacle needed to be overcome,

And I gave her my number and said to send me a text and that I won’t be an arsehole.

And I could see that she was figuring out a way of breaking up with him. 

I hoped she was figuring out a way of breaking up with him.

And for some reason, I know not why, with the thick shake in hand,

I walked up the leafy mall, and some dude was playing 

Stairway to Heaven, and a long white limo sat outside 

The town hall and a pigeon pecked about my yellow thongs,

And I saw in a shop window of The Ugg Australia shop

Seven R M Williams left boots on plastic stands and some guy 

Came up and looked at them and I wanted to tell him,

I wanted to say Save your bickies, my friend, these boots, 

They say they’re the best, but they’re not the best, the best boots 

Are made overseas, the best boots are not the ones you’re about to buy 

No matter what the clerk tells you, and, get this, I tell him,

Before he goes into the store to waste his money on second rate boots, 

Get this, the woman from Bahrain doesn’t know the best boots either,

She doesn’t have a clue what the best boots are, and it’s not her fault, 

Really it’s not her fault, and the man looked at me like I had lost my mind, 

Like I had lost my grip on reality, and really I had. I really had. 

This was no way to spend a Tuesday afternoon, I thought, 

Falling in love with a woman who has a boyfriend, 

As a paper straw wrapper lodged under my yellow thong.  

How long are you staying in Perth for? I asked. 

She said she didn’t know. 

D asked if I could go anywhere where would I go?

And I said I haven’t traveled enough to answer that question, 

And she said Neither have I, and I said I have to go and finish 

The Pacific Crest Trail and she said She doesn’t know 

Any of these trails as her skin gets burnt 

And she has to cover up her body and I tuned out, 

I wasn’t having any of this obfuscation — 

We would walk together one day, I was certain — 

For she knew I was the one and she asked me what my favourite colour 

Was and I said Black and she said she didn’t have a black straw 

And then she asked me if I wanted red, pink, orange, green 

And I said green and she said Good choice. 

And if she didn’t have a boyfriend we would be going out together right now 

But if she didn’t have a boyfriend she wouldn’t be working at the hamburger joint 

And she wouldn’t be studying yoga neither 

And if she didn’t have a boyfriend I would probably have a girlfriend 

And then I would be the one who had to choose 

And that would be harder for me than her, that’s for sure

If you didn’t have a boyfriend would you say Yes to going out with me?

The moral quandary is yours and yours to carry and the truth won’t let you rest

And your feelings won’t lie

And your smile can’t lie 

And I’m happy I could be myself

With you even after you broke the news 

That you have a boyfriend 

Because if I couldn’t be myself then I would know I was on the wrong path.

And that’s what I was doing — harrassing a poor girl while she’s at work — 

Was wrong. And I should stop going to her work to do my work, 

And I knew that if I felt like I was being a weirdo 

I should stop and never re-enter the doors,

Never set foot in that building again to order a vanilla thickshake.

-J. P. Quinton

Wokalup Tavern

The headlights shine to the left.

I follow two red dots.

A small stone cracks the windscreen.

In Pinjarra I give an ETA

And recall riding, riding, riding

Back when I had to run.

Inside she is behind the front wall.

She senses in me her own

Disappointment, I’m undatable

Were her words, before she deleted

What little of us we had.

I’m not sure what she thought

I was looking for, as two bowls

Of half eaten salad sat between us,

But what I saw were these eyes

And inside was a fire trying

To extinguish itself, a light

More intense than I’ve ever witnessed

A colour colliding, shattered

And slaughtered by red

That stuck across her iris

And bit deep into her pupils

That said she was barely able to cope;

That her illness didn’t care

For my sympathy and that soon

She would have to leave.