Can Poetry Be Happy?

By | 1 September 2023

I’m reading Donald Horne’s The Lucky Country (1964) at the breakfast table, with instant coffee, toast, orange juice and green smoothie (spinach, banana, chia, milk). Dad’s taping the races, then going to Warnambool with his brothers. Taylor Swift is playing softly from the laptop speakers. I am idly scrolling through the Facebook group Fairy Floss Real Estate. I am reading a text message about a man who keeps saying he ‘loves Obama’ to impress a woman at the bar. He is saying ‘I love Obama’ and then putting his hands around his face or supporting his head from his chin.

My uncle named his retro-fitted army van after Field Marshal Erick Von … someone. I’m hesitant to Google. He’s laughing about my PhD stipend, which he (rightly) identifies as a scam. ‘You already know how to write!’ ‘Hahaha’ we laugh … and he goes, with dad and his many shopping bags of food and beer. I’m slowing down, working from home, trying to be a good son and friend. Will I succeed?

Horne writes: ‘The image of Australia is a man in an open-necked shirt solemnly enjoying an ice-cream. His kiddie is beside him’. Alone in my parents’ house on a Monday after a weekend spent partying at Melbourne’s best (and most pretentious, says my friend’s hairdresser) club, Miscellania. Looking around the club at my friends who seem, unlike me, to know most of the fellow clubbers, I couldn’t figure out what they were talking about. I couldn’t understand where they could find language at a time and a place like this, back at the club at 9am the next day after leaving at 3am last night and not sleeping. I watched a man pull the blackout curtains back to find an unopened window, then vomit onto the couch. He was wearing a straw country-style hat. He wobbled to a seat and sat with his head in his hands.

Money means a fair go and we did have a fair go of it. DJ Kitti came on and we danced and then I felt sick and we went home. The party was just starting but I had had my party the night before, dancing madly like a last hurrah, the finale of about 9 months of consistent binge drinking and staying out late on weekends. When I got home, I ate leftover microwaveable lamb shanks with mum and dad then went to bed, watched two episodes of Succession (BINGE, now with ads?) then went through my photo reel, then fell asleep. My room is cold and drafty. Draughty? I have two doonas.

There’s an Albert Tucker painting on the cover of my copy of The Lucky Country. A man with a feather in his hat, a white collared shirt, an ace of spades poking out of the left breast pocket of a black blazer, clutching a yellow mug. His face is riddled with harsh furrows and his hat shades his one visible eye in almost complete darkness. In the background, water and sky, shark-like fins of boats circling around the figure’s neckline in a muggy green sea. His chin is an upside-down triangle. I’m wearing my yellow Champion hoodie, a scarf by a Melbourne designer, and tracksuit pants with Crocs.

The weekend’s dancing was restorative, I say. But then what? What have I restored?

* * *

The leaves are falling from the small trees at RMIT University. I want to be happy, do I? I’m Googling ‘Corey Worthington’, then Discovery-ing and Google Scholar-ing ‘Corey Worthington’.

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