She appeared in the half light Of the room Suddenly the space feels smaller Her tight dress hugging her body Like the imagination of many men Revealing enough of her ample cleavage To start a riot She is hesitant at first Not yet seizing her control of the situation Scanning the large studio Taking in every detail like an experienced assassin Her eyes finally settling on you And exuding all the electricity Of a holy prophet She asks how long she will be needed And you tell her all afternoon Suppressing the urge to say "forever" She smiles ever so slightly As she reads your mind She then says "How do you want me?" Now you know she is playing you And the game is afoot You slowly walk to her And stand behind her body Unzipping her into freedom Letting her dress fall to the floor There are no undergarments to bother with And suddenly Unexpectedly She is revealed to you Naked except for the high heels Looking down you take in everything Trying to etch it into your memory Forevermore The wonder of this moment And the privilege And although you are behind her She feels the heat of your stare And is energised And empowered by it Stealing the last of your strength You are now in checkmate She smiles to herself The hunter and the hunted The lines now blurred She has you As you slowly circle her seeing everything she has While she stands there proudly defiant Like a Goddess You want to hear her cry out In payment For her sins But that will have to wait You are no longer commanding the moves As you stand before her Humbled Maybe broken As those who stand in awe In front of the world's great works of art You look up and lock eyes with her And this is the most intimate moment of all And you flinch Lowering your eyes to her perfect lips You have never hungered for anything more Than to kiss them And her body knows it Standing there a second longer Would cause you to take her With the force of a leopard Devouring its prey But you have no strength left in your body You are done As you turn to walk back to the blank canvas Waiting on your easel You select your paintbrush And already defeated Attempt to capture Her beauty Before the light fades (c) Frank Howson 2017
The great actors know What it's like To stand naked in front of strangers Your vulnerability exposed And on show for all to see No secrets No guards No veils No safety net No second takes You're on and this is the moment To learn to not cover yourself For the sake of modesty There is no such thing Anymore So you relax And savour it Burn Don't run It's thrilling that they now Know you more intimately Than you know yourself The monster with a thousand eyes Hidden in the dark Breathing as one Committing every part of you to memory And reducing you to a one line review To be discussed amongst friends At dinner parties Laughing at how far you were Prepared to go For that moment of truth That intimidated the audience Reminding them how timid their lives were In comparison Exposing their cowardice To walk the high wire And to be seen in anything less Than designer labels and tags While you are free To soar Experience Feel Fail And show The real you 8 shows a week They will never be able to hold Eye contact with you again Without flinching For your eyes are way too honest And brave And can see into The darkest places of the soul It has made you strong Undefeated Self-reliant And lonely (c) Frank Howson 2017
So many battles I've had to fight alone. Betrayed by those I loved the most, they were also the ones I had been fighting for. The weariness of this realisation makes you weak at the knees and yet you must continue to fight or else the duplicity of their motives will win the day. You become hollow inside, not by cancer, but by the fact that something deep and magical and life enhancing has closed down never again to be reignited. You feel lighter as you inch closer to death. All that remains on most days is a shell. This is when you are called upon to become an actor and give 'em what they want. A performance. A great performance because it is so convincing most people think you still function and have risen above the hurt and damage of the shadow people. But then again, your life, or what's left of it, hangs on the thread of your ability to push on through the small talk and darkness of "What if...?" without puking on someone's expensive shoes. So many amongst us are asleep at the wheel and do not understand or care about what is at stake. Love is a distraction. Pain is the only honest constant and it has become your friend. You cannot be hurt anymore, which is disappointing to a lot of women. You cannot be brought down any further, which is crushing to many men. You cannot be bought, because there is nothing you need. You cannot be humiliated anymore, which is pleasing to God. For now all layers of bullshit and make-believe have been ripped away. You are free now. God almighty, free at last! You once had a dream too. But now you have awakened to see the game for what it is. Nothing can scare you now. You are impenetrable. This makes you frightening to those who only operate by spreading fear amongst us. And at the dawn of our demise you are noticeably at peace. And powerful again. (c) Frank Howson 2017 Painting by Frank Howson (c) 2017
I stumbled and fell into this. It was not of my doing as the road I was forging went in a different direction to the dreams of the boy I was. This caused me great confusion and suffering as I wandered lonely as a cloud through school poetry and beatings. My pain became my shield and protected me from the salt of their laughter. I learned to make them laugh before they had the chance to laugh first. Several women attempted to wash my feet before my crucifixion one grey day in history when our father forsaken me because of his drinking. I cried in agony with a thief each side of me, one believing in me, and one to ridicule me for a life that ended so. Somehow I rose from the dead and since then I have had several resurrections. In fact, the more times people write me off, the stronger I come back. My enemies have unwittingly made me indestructible. The shock realisation of this has killed many of them. The rest I have dealt with. People now stop me in the street and ask for my wisdom. But this wisdom was not my doing, and has come from the undoing of everything I wanted and loved. It was fired by pain and made as strong as steel through humiliation and injustice. But still I go on. And those who have spoken against me have been struck down by God or are dying in the poisoned bile of their lies. I visit their graves at night to laugh. For nothing is forgotten or forgiven at this train stop on the way to Armageddon. I choose to travel economy for my instinct tells me that God only welcomes the humbled. The man who brags may get ahead in this life, but suffers a thousand years in the next. The ignorant fool who never stops talking and always distorts the third hand facts will be the next to fall on his sword and death waits patiently in his gallery of art to silence his unrepentant and envious ways. I am coming for him. Coming in the night. Coming in the dead end street. Coming in his busy schedule. Coming for rightful correction. Coming. Every hurtful snide remark is etched on my heart. Every belittling lie is another stab wound he will suffer. Another thousand years to linger at the abyss. And the hellish realisation that it was all for nothing. (c) Frank Howson 2017 Photograph by Raija Sunshine (c) 2017
Once I saved While others played I came fresh faced In a suit of blue Sacrificed on the altar Of others' agendas Sent scurrying to find Things that were never there Was given love Only to have it taken away Was made to laugh Until I cried A man of peace Hardened enough to kill I always went crazy In the final reel "Since I lost my baby" Is all I play On every jukebox That I find In this burnt out wasteland Of broken hearts Paperback dreams Second hand lives Mercy murders The billboards tell the truth There's nothin' down here worth savin' We've filled our lives with shit Auctioned off paradise And gambled away the money The writers get degraded And then ignored They're resented for knowing too much About what makes things tick Now there's a lonely kid Livin' on the street With dreams of makin' it big But little does he know He's already dead Dead to the world Dead on arrival At the feet of the paedophiles And the worshippers of Satan Who shape shift Into human beings Regret is my supper For turning my face away From all the horrors I have witnessed That killed me Piece by piece Believing politicians That didn't even believe themselves Until it was too late (c) Frank Howson 2017
I sometimes love to sit on my second storey apartment balcony on a sunny day and look up at the sky or below to the people passing by, some I know, some I never will. Closing my eyes and tilting my head so I feel the warmth of the sun on my face. A warm that seems to melt away the years and renews by reminding one of the inner warmth that was felt during those perfect brief moments in your life.
One day I stood after being renewed, and was about to go back inside and resume some work when I heard a bird chirping away. I leaned over the balcony and looked down to the branch of a tree below and saw a bird building a nest. Transfixed I watched for some time as this little bird would fly away and return some moments later with the perfect twig to fit into this complex jigsaw puzzle of what only she could see would eventually be a nest for her forthcoming child. If anyone wants to gaze upon the wonder and effort of love, check out this painstaking ritual if, like me, you get the chance.
I stood there for hours that first day and watched this bird’s tireless solitary vigil. Occasionally she would sense my presence and look up at me, and I would smile back and gave encouragement even though I knew she had no idea what I was saying but hoped that in my tone she sensed my appreciation and respect.
This went on for about a week until the nest was perfection. Utter perfection, so cleverly and intuitively constructed, strong and sturdy, resting safely on a well protected branch. My eyes teared up from the astounding accomplishment of her love.
Sometimes she would fly back to rest in the nest and look up at me and we’d have our one sided conversations.
One sunny morning I went out onto the balcony and looked down to see two faces looking up at me. If there is a feeling of magic it was in that moment. I went back inside and returned with some food I thought was small enough to feed this new hungry family. I softened it in my mouth and then dropped it down to them. And so this ritual went on for some days until one morning they were gone. Leaving only that perfect empty nest. I wish I had gone and retrieved it and taken it somewhere to be bronzed as a keepsake forevermore. A symbol of pure love. But being only human I didn’t get around to it. Or perhaps I had too much respect to touch it with human hands. As a species we tend to destroy or damage the most perfect things in order to own them.
Some time passed, and one day I was sitting on the balcony in the sun, daydreaming, when two birds swooped down and landed on the balcony handrail and calmly stood there looking at me. I smiled at them and said “Hello” and got up to walk into the interior darkness of my rented nest when I had a realisation that stopped me in my tracks. I turned but they were gone never to be seen again. My instinct tells me that it was actually the mother and child returning to say “Thanks and farewell.” I’d like to believe that. Somehow I need to.
(c) Frank Howson 2017
I was born in St.Kilda Lived most of my life here Travelled the world searching for what was Probably already found And like the prodigal son I returned My face lined with lessons learned To the only place that ever felt to me like home My childhood was spent in Fawkner Street It was for a time my whole world Among our neighbours were ordinary battlers Sly grog salesmen Gamblers and gangsters Public enemy Number one Norm Bradshaw nicknamed The Beast for good reason Lived there When he wasn't on the run So did his in-laws The Shannons and our next door neighbour, the Aussie equivalent of Bonnie Parker - Pretty Dulcie Colourful big-hearted contradictory characters I remember the night that several rival gangsters Kicked in Pretty Dulcie's front door and walked down her corridor Spraying gun shots One stray bullet came through our wall and if it'd been a little further to the left Somebody else would be standing here today The 6 o'clock swill at the Barkly Hotel Produced enough colourful characters and street poetry To fill a thousand pulp fiction novels There was no better grounding to be a writer or an actor Than to stand on the corner of Fawkner Street and Barkly at sunset And watch the cavalcade of originals spew out onto the street and wander home in what seemed like a slow motion drunkard's dance Two steps to the left, three to the right Mr. & Mrs. Kilpatrick owned the corner Milk Bar And were the moral guardians of the neighbourhood If you were having a poor week They'd give you supplies and keep a tab You survived on your word and good name In those days people trusted each other My father worked for the St. Kilda Foreshore for over 30 years His little office was under the biggest dip in Luna Park's Scenic Railway and he looked after all the beaches as well as the O'Donnell Gardens The latter was where a lot of my boyhood was spent Playing while he worked In my mind recreating Sherwood Forest, the Alamo and every John Wayne movie Hiding in the bushes, climbing trees, attacking the cavalry Developing an imagination Robin Hood, Peter Pan, Davy Crockett and Spiderman I fought beside them Blood brothers every one We used to save the world before each day was done My mum worked across the road at Candy Corner To me, in my memory, still the best lolly shop in the world bar none And my dad, during the summer months Would work a second job at night Running the ferris wheel at the sideshows to the right of the Palais My first public appearance was on the stage of the St. Kilda Town Hall at the age of seven, performing "Give My Regards To Broadway" Although to us, Broadway may as well have been the moon Years later my father actually died in an ambulance outside the Town Hall It was a fitting place for him to leave this world For you see, our world was St. Kilda It was engraved in our hearts Everyone I have mentioned, other than me Have gone now They are ghosts that haunt these streets and boulevards and beaches You hear their faraway laughter on the wind and see their outlines in the mist of dawn The spiritual guardians of a place that was every bit as unique as Times Square, or Soho, or Wanchai Every weekend people from all over Melbourne would jump a tram Or a train and come to St. Kilda To see the freaks, hear the music, eat the exotic European food, Rub shoulders with the ten most wanted Poke fun at the bohemians Sneak a guilty sidewards glance at the painted ladies Eat the cakes of a thousand calories And parade along the promenade with someone special Please, for sake of all those ghosts, Don't let the soul of St. Kilda die Atmosphere can't be planned or created It is a magic Like stardust from the Gods And once it's gone It's gone It can't be explained And it can't be fabricated It's not a trick of Houdini There is no recipe It can't be reduced to something mortals can understand But at the heart of it there is a truth People don't come to experience a strip mall Even if it has been exquisitely designed They come to experience Life That to me is St. Kilda And our Art Tells the world who we are What we think And where we come from And like Davy Crockett at the Alamo I'll defend that till the end (c) 2017 (Speech delivered at the opening of the St. Kilda Arts Crawl September 21, 2017.)