Open House: Palm Springs Modernism Week

Helen Thurloe

 

It seems we always end up stuck

in a bathroom. A cul-de-sac of turquoise tiles;

a wall-hung toilet, firmly shut.

 

Cornered, we turn and turn, corralled

by map-wavers on tighter viewing schedules.

 

In backward steps we nod at naked men

their muscles flexed on orange walls

in narrow halls, oblivious to the lens (and us).

Oiled youth sealed under glass, quarantined

from grey hairs under baseball caps

and flesh that shivers in desert shade.

 

Through designer sunglasses we bless

those Joshua trees in gravel. Approve

that aspect of snow on barren peaks. Then rate

the pool out of ten on the Hockney-scale.

Admire atomic crockery. Snort

at fifties film posters – Doris on a bicycle!

Sneer at sheds of real life junk

that jar our sixties reveries.

 

Out the back, by the gas-fueled fire pit

the old architect sits

confused. He trembles as he shakes

hands with worshippers who gather

and gather around, their matched pugs

in children’s bedrooms, their twin

Lincoln Continentals wedged

in modest carports – surely Texas still has oil?

 

Up the road the Mexican yardsmen

jiggle sprinklers for salad fresh lawns.

Above them twin palms nod

and sway; the builders’ ghosts reflect

in backyard pools. They don’t care about

retro swivel lights or bold pink Marimekko.

They see past parched earth. Across

the rock dry mountains. They calculate the price

with variations, while we squint

hands cupped, distracted by butterfly

roofs, and aesthetics of plumbing.

 

Yet one day, when the aquifer’s been splashed

on turf, and the wind turbines rusted stuck

from hot tub soaks and iced drink thirst –

the desert will bring our insides

out, and our outsides in. Crazy paving,

painted breezeways and all.

 

 

Helen Thurloe is a Sydney poet and writer. Her poetry is published widely, and her poems have been recognised in awards, including the Quantum Words Science Poetry Competition and the ACU Literature Prize. Helen’s debut novel, Promising Azra, was shortlisted for a NSW Premier’s Literary Award in 2017. www.helenthurloe.com.au

 

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