local by Anna Couani

‘Ideas for Novels 7’ by Anna Couani

Sydney gives you space to breathe
with its up and down hills
and huge liquid ambers

skinny peninsulas
deep deep harbour

lost in the crowd

trams that live on
in Australian novels

my generations
in the inner city

a blessing
a curse

the city as it is lived

the Greek kids
four brothers
who built canoes
from corrugated iron
and tar
to sink like a stone
in Rose Bay

the glittering church windows
of John Radecki
Polish great grandpa
nestling like forgotten jewels
in corners of the city
only discovered by us atheists
fifty years later

Mum and Dad snapped in Lee Street
just as it is today
with the old stone wall
the steep slate roof
looking like Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck
in Spellbound
especially as they were doctors
and the shot was in black and white
the excitement of the CBD
all of us walking those streets
different feet
different decades
across 140 years

Uncle Con’s café in George Street
long and narrow
and Con, ex-army cook
frantic at the grill
way down inside
how did he stop customers
from running off without paying?

John Radecki’s stained glass factory
in Dixon Street
near today’s Food World food court
when the buildings were entirely blackened
and grandma toiling to keep it afloat
struggling with her heart condition
and her proud husband

Uncles George and Con
later on
with the fruit barrow
just outside
the old Anthony Hordern’s building
spinning those paper bags
carrying change in those leather aprons

Auntie Nellie in the Oceanic Café
for 65 years
on the other side of Central Station
Mum on the till
pregnant with me
strange she was taking time off her own work
and 10 years later was working just up the hill

those Poles and those Greeks
the place more like an American city
for us
seemed like we were in the wrong movie