Constant companion

A scalpel chill snips through the weave of beanies.
Woollen scarves put up a thin resistance.
Night’s south-west wind goose-bumps uncovered skin,
the few bare patches.

A boozy couple
quarrel at the bus stop.
Central Station clock, that golden dial,
looks down its long hand nose
at half past nine.
Snarling each other’s wrongs, the pair ignore me.
I walk my shadow free,
see it stretch, grow huge
on the underside of a stone arch,
a tunnel for walkers.
Then streetlights project it
on hastening cars.
Wentworth Avenue. Sound-systems
pound the darkness
to a diamond-dust moving stream.
Constant companion
glides over zebra stripes
ahead of me.

Oxford Street
trades constant companion
for non-stop bright
dance floors, bars, café tables
work together to dissolve it –
’evening, light bath;
goodbye, shadow.

Taylor Square lights up half the sky.
Traffic crocodiles, with glittering hides,
give one another the go-by.
Taylor Square
threads party people,
buses, beggars,
moviegoers, night commuters,
coppers, tourists, local shoppers
through its navel.
Without an i.d. – like everyone else’s –
constant companion
spills on the ground
with the fountains
by Gilligan’s Island.

At Sacred Heart
in relief, alone, Jesus
oversees the church entry.
His open arms & flowing drapery
argue with the stuff that he’s composed of;
talk back to stone.
Enveloped by history,
St Vincent’s Hospital shines
geometrically –
a procession of windows,
calm & orderly.
Green Park – opposite –
starts with a wall:
cars cruise, stealth glances,
muttered offers chafe the air;
constant companion
loses me on that thoroughfare
among evergreens
rustling like far-off autumns.

But when we get to the wire mesh fence on Cutler Freeway,
constant companion
breaks out
as deftly as a well-trained dancer –
paling fences, concreted yards
lap it up
yet don’t absorb it;
no ‘inner life’, it’s a moving outline –
graceful, silent –
no effort apparent.

While I pace along bitumen
exhale carbon clouds, try to keep up,
my shadow walks me home
as smoothly as a subtle actor;
pouring over tin roofs’ silver
like an overturned
Manhattan –
fluent in the wind-chill factor
after winter night-shifts.

Kerry Leves

Kerry Leves (1948–2011) was a poet and critic who regularly contributed to Overland before he recently passed away. He composed this poem for the ‘Sydney: Endless City’ reading of the Harbour City Poets group at the Sydney Writers Festival, May 2011.

More by Kerry Leves ›

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