Henley Park Canto

1 February 2018

33:54:30 S,151:6:190 E

This cul-de-sac sits like a thermometer bulb at the bottom of a street lined
with housing of various degrees–Californian bungalows, miners’ cottages
adapted to open-cut suburbia, stucco incursions that conceal grandiloquent
stairways while the next generation experiments with sheepishness.

Nearby, a distant view would have sketched calligraphic brushstrokes
in gold-clearing light, stick figures stepping on egg shells while their hands wove
jing in the bountiful void between the cresting sun and resting moon.
South-east,
acres of bermudagrass lie still in regimented fields, while athletes, joggers

and mums in three-quarter tights pushing bivouac strollers hug the convention
of perimeter. On weekends the fields thud and scrape with the long ball booted
forward by a thirsty fullback and sprigs that bite the turf for grip, or
the vertical alignment of a bowler in delivery stride and the deliberating willow

of a watchful batsman.
Foam-soft, low-swung play equipment breaks
the park’s sporting stranglehold and evokes hardier memories.
My thoughts
rove, like Rilke’s dog, around the corner to the off-leash strip beside the back fences
and its yap for a greater allotment. It peters out at the slope the graders forgot

and the garden border of the Blind Centre that has toiled for decades to be
seen. Across the road the forever “new” nursery has retained the cocky cages
and fish ponds of its predecessor, though its owners reportedly hunger
for tenements.
The dog comes to heel, returns to the leash at the cyclone fencing

on the boundary of the pool that abuts the cul-de-sac. In the civilian lane a burkini
reveals girlish joy within the strictures of her faith. Alongside lap swimmers
ply their litanies of stroke and kick. Those who shudder at the merest whisper
of respiting breeze seal themselves in the humidicrib of the heated pool.

I remember I first apprehended truth’s elasticity in this pool as my father cajoled
me into swimming–an Olympian propelled me to the 33 yard mark; my brothers
and sisters share this experience in their own measure–and that the coelacanth
has inhabited the deep Indian Ocean since the Devonian Era, and swims on.

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