Jonathan Hadwen is a Brisbane writer whose poetry has been published in Westerly, fourW, and Stand Magazine, as well as other publications in Australia and overseas. In 2013 he was named runner-up in the Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize for an unpublished manuscript. He recently had a prose poem sequence published in Writing to the Edge, published by Spineless Wonders.
In the neighbourhood
I drive out to see a friend. He lives out west in a suburb that was brand-new about thirty years ago, but is now a bit run-down. I drive through 60 zones, and 80 zones, a school zone, intersections, and roundabouts in the more modern areas. On every side I pass streets lined with houses. I have lived in this city my whole life. There are so many streets I will never drive down.
A plane sinks into the suburbs. A cloud reaches out like a great claw.
There are more birds around than I ever knew, and they fight all the time, and some of them even sing. Some of the birds are regulars – a pack of noisy miners, a couple of crows – but occasionally there are lorikeets, or rosellas, and even more rarely, a song-bird. I can never see him, only hear him, there in the trees, no matter how long I stare and study each bough and branch. He never sings the same song twice – he is like a composer trying out melodies, a perfectionist, who is never truly satisfied with the tune.
I never see the old couple downstairs, except on bin night. They keep their place locked-up tight, and the air-conditioner is always running whether it is hot or otherwise. It is the man who takes the rubbish out. He totters down the few steps from their first floor apartment with his walking stick, and one small bag of trash.
The old man is coughing again. It is bad today. My throat catches just listening to it. The sun is out, in its merciless way. The birds are happy – it is early summer – there is always enough to eat.