Images: Les Wicks – Photo by Mandi Kaplan; New/Old Parramatta by Mihaela Cristescu
My first love’s name was Joanne Taylor.
We were eight & she lived close by in one of
central Parramatta’s remaining “slums”.
Her mother had disappeared,
it was a dark undiscussed secret
like murder & ghosts.
The father was a drunk.
Something known despite the fact
I always went home before he returned from
We shared Joanne
& the bad-backed terrace in shifts.
In July the house still had
xmas stuff all around the walls.
Jo said it saved putting them up each year,
they’d become monkey bars for bugs.
There was no fridge.
Joanne said she preferred jelly to ice cream.
No television, me neither.
We’d sneak across at night to
WARD’S ELECTRICAL, join others
as the silent images flickered behind plate glass.
Promising much, explaining little.
That year Dad bought our HMV but Jo & I
would still meet at Ward’s
(my loungeroom cheapened
quality of light).
At xmas the battle-scarred decorations got so right.
Summer jelly took longer to set,
rested on a shelf like something festively important.
I gave her a kiss (it seemed correct),
then said my family was moving to Dundas.
She shrugged in her practical clothes
& our search continued in the
archaeology of her back yard.
My first of hundreds/
The Hidden Store
In the middle of a flat, practical Parramatta,
1972, near the slovenly river down
Church Street stood the somehow pagan
Black Mountain Imports & almost every day I visited
woven, carved, beaten works from a headache
of different countries all
reduced & bargain priced for this canny shopper, always
in search of a new.
25 years later I still owned the twisted
green glass Mexican goblets.
The crucible & the book
part of a half researched never-quite-right rite
that involved Janis Joplin.
Even the laundry basket spoke of smoky,
transcendental Idea as fingers had
coaxed form from water soaked bamboo.
At Christmas my parents received gazelles & elephants
carved so no line was straight.
They said life was sinuous…
meant to be stroked.
My sister got incense
that sought her heart or mind,
an inveigled nose.
The carpet was too much to take in
& never sold. Reduced in price
every couple of months but still requiring
a wealth beyond my imagination.
I knew we would fly together but
out of luck I left to wander,
the 165 bus home maybe
frosty boy from the milk bar. More tangible
teenage treasures from inside a diesel town
that dreamt of huge office blocks & a new concrete coat.
Les Wicks has been published across 33 countries in 15 languages. His 14th book of poetry is Belief (Flying Islands, 2019).