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