Camel Man

Camel Man

Even the cat sleeps, stretched out on the old bench,
tail curled around a basket of fading onions.
What else is there left to do in this heat but sleep?
The bone-bleaching wind drapes itself around the western wall,
licking what’s left of the tired geranium and shriveling it on the spot.
His barbed wire tongue slices like a razor blade,
striking first and asking questions later.
It’s an electrified fence in the top paddock
and there is history after history to dismantle
and she’s too tired to be polite.
Her heart holds rows of scorched bats.
Mummified mammals with fried feet,
swinging their mute protest from an unexpected obstacle.
The back door creaks as he sneaks onto the verandah,
torn fly-wire no match for the flying ants and giants Bogongs
that dart and flap and slap themselves on the nearest source of light.
The room is full of yesterday’s sex and tomorrow’s aspirations.
She feigns sleep as he stands still and b r e a t h e s  –
each one waiting for the other to move first.
One slender, freckled arm peels back the thinning sheet like a promise
and he is once more allowed to slide beside her.
The tired soldier; the roaring wild thing, now a contrite child,
limp and suckling at her breast.

Whether the weather is stormy or dry
Whether the dingoes howl
Whether the heat is a wave in the sky
Whether the beasties prowl
Whether the dust gathers a curse
And blackens the world that I know
Whether the sun withers the trees
at the edge of the water hole
I will be waiting
I will be waiting
I will be waiting
For the Camel Man.

Carry the load that is destined to fall
Carry the pain in your heart
Carry the relic of earlier wars
Carry the sweet and the sharp
Carry the seed of a still summer night
And a memory of how we lay
Carry a map of the treasure you lost
And a star to point the way
You will be waiting
You will be waiting
You will be waiting
One day, Camel Man

When I was younger I lived on my dreams
I ran in a bare-foot way
Now I am older, it seems
That the skin on my feet
Is cracking and dry
And dreams give me fear
Of a Black-fella’s eye

He is the rain that can break the dry spell
He is the snake in the grass
He is the song of crickets at night
He is the brumby that pass
He is a man who’s never afraid
Of the dance of the min-min light
He is a wound here in my breast
That aches in the morning light
I wait forever, I am waiting
I wait for ever
For the Camel man.

Meryl Leppard © 2000

Bird-man

Bird-man

The bird-man combs his lank, gray hair and coaxes it over his bald spot, securing his status as a local lady-killer.

He changed his window display yesterday. We lost the child-like water colours of Twin Towers and exploding jets, but gained Marilyn; white pleated skirt laughingly held by a hand that never washed dishes.  There’s a plastic pink carnation taped to the side of the photo to add a festive touch. Bird-man likes his icons.

He tells me anything I want to know about the mating rituals of finches, the nervousness of peach faces, the competitiveness of minor birds.
He’s a fund of information, watching the world from his concrete front yard.  Bum in deckchair.  Radio on.

He leans over the front fence clutching two blue budgerigars and tells me that they are new, that they are lovers, that they kiss. “Do you want to see?”  The birds duly peck at each others beaks as he leans their pretty heads close together.  “They have their own song,” he announces gleefully.  “Watch this”, he says and launches into a mellow rendition, swaying in time to his own waltz, a little bird in each fat fist.
“I give to you as you give to me, true love, (kiss kiss) true love.” (kiss kiss.)

“I had a girl once”, he confided to me one day.   I listened politely, wondering what was going to come next.  “I had a girl once”……………was all he said before letting the sentence peter out and looking wistfully away.

Meryl Leppard © 2001