Poetry: Status Quo Vadis | clivejames.com
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Status Quo Vadis

As any good poem is always ending,
The fence looks best when it first needs mending.
Weathered, it hints it will fall to pieces –
One day, not yet, but the chance increases
With each nail rusting and grey plank bending.
It's not a wonder if it never ceases.

In beauty's bloom you can see time burning:
A lesson learned while your guts are churning.
Her soft, sweet cheek shows the clear blood flowing
Towards the day when her looks are going
Solely to prove there is no returning
The way they came. There's a trade wind blowing.

We know all this yet we love forever.
Build her a fence and she'll think you're clever.
Write her a poem that's just beginning
From start to finish. You'll wind up winning
Her heart, perhaps, but be sure you'll never
Hold on to the rainbow the top sets spinning.

What top? The tin one that starts to shiver
Already, and soon will clatter. The river
Of colour dries up and your mother's calling
Your name while the ball hasn't finished falling,
And you miss the catch and you don't forgive her.
You went out smiling but you go home bawling.

Weep all you like. Earn your bread from weeping.
Write reams explaining there is no keeping
The toys on loan, and proclaim their seeming
Eternal glory is just the dreaming
We do pretending that we aren't sleeping –
Your tears are stinging? They're diamonds gleaming.

Think of it that way and reap the splendour
That flares reflected in the chromium fender
Of the Chrysler parked in the concrete crescent.
The surge is endless, the sigh incessant.
A revelation can only tender
Sincere regrets from the evanescent.

Remember this when it floods yours senses
With streams of light and the glare condenses
Into a star. It's a star that chills you.
Don't fool yourself that the blaze fulfils you
And builds your bridges and mends your fences
Merely because of the way it thrills you –

The breath of life is what finally kills you.

(Spectator, December 16-23, 2006)

Note (from Collected Poems)

This immortal piece of bad Latin can be heard spoken in that enchanted movie Strictly Ballroom, and therefore counts as classic Australian poetry on all levels.