Damn Catholics and other poems – Peter Mitchell


In a small town moment, I and a neighbour’s boy play rapture:
a cosy front yard, marbles clink the balmy air, a palace in the sun.

Mr Laidlaw, my soccer coach, barges our bliss. We don’t need
you damn Catholics. His purposeful stride is a departing

threat. Cath-o-lics. Words leave their mark, a hovering
menace, a triad of barbed letters. Yet in the 

stunned air between us, our eyes catch a shift in the light.
Above us, the sky is now upturned. The skin of the dome

becomes a busy commotion, a mob yelling hate. This
word was a distant rumbling on life’s edges, now it 

scuttles on the rocks below paradise. These letters
heat the air and rise to the centre of my life.

Now the path is a surface of sludge-deep holes. How
will my splintered selves dodge through the decades ahead? 


You urged me onto the XPT, this 
luminiscent tube that lasers the dark.

A friend drops me at Casino Station. I
wave farewell. Grass crunches under-foot

as I walk onto the platform. The engine’s
headlight splays the autumn air.

Now I sit in tons of steel transfixed by
                                        the tracks ahead.

Grafton and Kempsey are two-light stations,
warm pockets in the overcoat of night.

One-light stations like Wauchope and Wingham
blur past at eighteen frames per second.

Maitland, Thornton, Beresfield and Tarro,
stations of the school cross, come and go like

childhood slides. The suburban sprawl is a 
sentence that doesn’t want to stop.

Pauses at Hornsby and Strathfield punctuate it,
                    make it many.

Now at Platform 22, your sapphire eyes are cursives of light,
                                        the entired station aglow.


The years with you were cycles of wax and wane: sometimes
we were a bright star in your gravity’s orbit; sometimes I was 
                              a nova.

With your sun falling behind a memory of lightness,
               I rotated to a dead star.

Three years after the burnout, I picked a second-hand
          novel from my bookshelves.

On re-reading it, I found the bookmark, your photograph
         inside the back cover.

Your blue-orbed menace
          still trembled my second skin.

One night two years later, I sat on the backsteps
                   & gazed at the galaxies.
                    The skies,
a million light years deep, glittered
               and the miraculous

     wild and known only to itself,
               came near.

4. I listened in its silence & looked at your photograph
I recollected our recent meeting at a dance party.
You said, I thought you might still be angry with me.
I said, Fifteen years is long enough to be angry with you.
          We hugged.

Our past was a star: shining, distinct & had 
moved to another part of the night sky.

Now radiant, 
my star revolves on its own 

for John

Your name
is a tendril.
It spirals from 
my arse-lips
to my tongue-tip.

Your name
is a fine red wine.

Your name 
is danger:
thin-ice plunge,
a wreck on the rocks.

trouble me,
wild, wild risk.  

Find out more about Peter Mitchell at his website http://www.peter-mitchell.com.au

About the contributor

Peter Mitchell is the author of Conspiracy of Skin (Ginninderra Press, 2018) and The Scarlet Moment (Picaro Press, 2009). He writes poetry, memoir, short fiction and literary criticism. His memoir, Fragments through the Epidemic is awaiting a publisher. Conspiracy of Skin was recently awarded a Highly Commended in the Wesley Michel Wright Prize 2019.

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