Years ago, someone kindly defaced my website with a virus which had the result of adding an ugly crimson background to many of the poetry pages I’d put up … over time, I’ve reworked many of the individual pages and in the process learned a little more about cascading stylesheets so that hopefully I won’t need to go through the same process again. Anyway, this is one of the poems I’ve retyped this morning, Doris Leadbetter following a visit in 1995 to the Tasmanian Poetry Festival and published in ‘famous reporter’ 12 in 1995. Still just as much fun to read as it was then.
A Hot Night on the Town
The only man of her own age
had that unwived-in look –
you know the one: frayed,
just a little,
eyes on the carpet,
bitten nails, baggy crotch.
He smiled back at her.
In her mind
she ran through the advice in
Cosmopolitan, New Woman,
New Idea and settled for
‘Ask Important questions!’
‘What do you do, then, when you’re not
at fortieth birthday parties?’
‘I live here. In Campbell Town.’
Great. Now what important question
can follow that? What? Who with?
‘What do you do, then, living here?
In Campbell Town?’
He glanced at her. Brown eyes gazed
into grey eyes, skidded back to the
‘What do I do?’ he asked.
Oh gawd, one of those rhetorical questions.
How she hated rhetorical questions: How
do I know it’s over? Why don’t I love you
any more? What’s wrong with you?
What’s wrong with me tonight, she thought.
‘Persist!’ murmured Cosmopolitan.
‘Yes, do. In Campbell Town.’
‘Sex,’ he said. ‘Sex on heaters.’
The world spun.
The carpet seemed to fling off the beer stains.
Curtains shook out creases.
Furniture plumped its cushions.
Lights flickered coded messages.
‘Sex on heaters,’ she asked.
Brown met grey again and held for a moment.
He nodded. ‘The best.’
‘What about the ridges? I mean, Dimplex heaters -‘
He shook his head.
The ridges faded from her spine.
‘But the heat?’
He smiled as she melted,
poured herself into a stream of running pleasure.
‘Can be as hot as you like,’ he said.
Handfuls of eager bottom urged him on
as the logs burned
and their skin reddened
and they rolled over and over.
eddies of hot air teased
‘Another beer, Barry?’
The host held out the Fosters
whose chilled glass made sweat move
through her perm
twitching her scalp.
‘Ta,’ he said and the host lingered
as she lingered on a new image.
A cold tinnie
slid over her body
as the heater made them steam.
‘Still doing the same thing, Barry?’
The steam evaporated.
She waited, held her breath,
stilled her heart.
‘Yup,’ he said. ‘Still there.’
‘A great product, those Saxon heaters,’
said the host, moving away.
‘Saxon heaters?’ she said. ‘Like
‘Well, they’re not that old,’ Barry said,
looking around for a new conversation
with someone sweating a bit less.
Maybe she was too old for this.
She said goodbye
and went looking for her car in the
cool Tasmanian evening.
… and I’m reminded of a conversation with Tim Thorne a few years ago, an interview that touched on poetry and politics in general and of life in Tasmania, and in Launceston in particular. Tim was taking in the sweep of the Launceston basin from his loungeroom. “It’s a lovely view, except when the fog rolls in. In thirty years I’ve never grown tired of it. And in all the years of people visiting here, only one person has disagreed with me about the view and that was Doris Leadbetter. I think she found the steps difficult and it was night – so she didn’t appreciate it much. I pointed out the twinkling electric lights scattered across the valley and her response was, ‘Fond of electricity are you?’ “
Tim continued, with Doris remaining in his train of thought. “She was such a character. I’ll never forget the time in Cygnet she volunteered for mud wrestling, I think it was in response to a sign at the local butcher’s shop advertising ‘Women wanted for mud wrestling. Apply within.’ Doris – being well into her sixties at the time and having had a double mastectomy – thought she would volunteer. The butcher was somewhat taken aback, Doris wasn’t quite the applicant he was expecting.”
“And there was an episode at a New Norfolk pub where we were staying while on a reading tour. A gang of bikies was assembled at a car park which Doris for some reason had to traverse and – I think more as a pre-emptive strike than as a response to anything – offered to one of them as she walked past, ‘Ah yes. A man can bond with a Ducati!’ Doris was an imposing character, a wonderful wit and a great presence … she’s sadly missed.”