ST. KILDA

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.)




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SPIRITUAL VAMPIRES

So many fucked up people in the world
Monstrously negative feelings about every living person
Every word from their mouths another poison bullet
Aimed at someone, anyone
Most times they actually kill the person who was attempting 
To help them
But I guess to them we all look the same
Eventually they implode and eat themselves
But don't breathe easy
There are many who will follow
They weren't loved enough by daddy
So now they reach out frantically to everyone they meet
To give them the loving family they were denied
But when such immediate desperation hits 
They frighten off their targets
And their baby love turns to a cold-hearted hate 
Within a blink of an eye
They hit out at the world 
For not giving them what they wanted
Yet they can't tell you what that is
They want to be celebrities 
Without doing the hard work
They want to be successful writers 
Without facing the pain
They want to top the charts with songs
That touch us without ever exploring themselves
They want babies 
But marry men who don't
Almost as though this self-fulfilling prophecy
Will forever more be their excuse 
For not having to love anyone
Or give of themselves
Or try
If you are trapped by them
There is no escape
Only a small room where death awaits
The living are always under attack from the dead
The spiritual vampires
Of the new millennium
Sucking off your light force
Until you are done
And then they will mourn you
Because now you are safe to be
Whoever they choose to invent
As their next excuse


(c) Frank Howson 2017




I’M THERE FOR YOU

I'm there for you
Even when I'm ignored
When you hit out at the world
I sometimes get in the way
Because I appear to be strong
I sometimes am not watered
Like the other flowers in your garden
But I'm there for you
Observing
Protecting
Advising
Defending
Encouraging
Worrying
Until I feel empty
From standing in these shadows
That rarely get the sun
I live for the laughter
The words of hope
Spoken by you or others
The light
The common sense that wisdom brings
To all
But is seldom noticed
Or heard
I am there
Waiting
Longing
Bleeding
Hurting
Renewing
Carrying the weight
Of every decision made in my name
That scarred me
Humbled me
Blessed me
And saved me
I am there for you
Every step of the way
To lift you up from every fall
To shoulder every tear
To make sense of every confusion
To call your name
When it's been forgotten by others
I have been there
So I can be here
For you


(c) Frank Howson 2017



NOT TO FALL IN LOVE WITH YOU

I just don’t know

What to say

Years from now

I’ll say I was led astray

But here we are

And what’s a man to do?

I’d have to be blind

Not to fall in love with you

 

We almost kissed

On that night

But we knew

We did not have the right

To break the hearts

Of those we thought we knew

I died where I stood

Not to fall in love with you

 

God has cursed me

Not to fall in love with you

Someone over-rehearsed me

Not to fall in love with you

 

I still do dream

After dark

Of angel wings

And faraway sounds of a lark

We leaned so close

That we almost did touch

You have condemned me

Not to fall in love too much

 

Can’t do small talk

Nor can think

Strike me down

But all I can do is drink

So here we are

I don’t know what to do

I’d have to be drunk

Not to fall to love with you…

 

You know how much I’d hate

Not to fall in love with you?…

 

(C) Frank Howson 2017

 

 

THE RIGHT PLACE AT THE WRONG TIME

How did you get so pretty?

How did I get so old?

I never combed my hair

Or did what I was told

Do you believe in magic

Like I believe in you?

I wanna curse these years

That took me away from you

 

You’re the price I paid

For being born too soon

I  touched the stars

But missed the moon

I was the motherless child

Of a victim-less crime

Tell ’em…

I was in the right place

But at the wrong time

 

Why did my world stop spinning?

Why did the sky turn grey?

I never dreamed at night

All my dreams were by day

What do you see in my eyes

When I’m looking at you?

Romeo in decline?

Or a man you never knew?

 

Oh what a price I’ve paid

For living far too long

I broke my heart

To write this song

I’m like Buffalo Bill

In a five and dime

Tell ’em

I was in the right place

But at the wrong time

 

I’m the invisible man

Nobody sees me anymore

That’s me in the rain

Outside your door

I once was something

And everybody knew my name

Now I live in Regret

On the outskirts of Blame

 

Oh what a price I’ve paid

For loving you too much

I lost my mind

And now my touch

One day you’ll understand

But your words won’t rhyme

Just tell ’em…

You’re in the right place

But it’s the wrong time….

 

(c) Frank Howson 2017

 

 

 

 

SHINE YOUR LIGHT

Give me something that won't hurt
Give me someone who won't desert
Give me a reason to change my mind
Give me sight where I've been blind
Show me where I'm supposed to be
Show me the road that will set me free

I still believe in you
Even if the good book ain't all true
But I surely know
Even in the darkest night
You care enough
To shine your light

Take me someplace I ain't been
Take me to harbours I ain't seen
Take me away from myself
Tempt me not with greed and wealth
Show me where I'll be welcomed home
End all those nights that I've been alone

I still believe in you
Even if the good book ain't all true
But I surely know
Even in the darkest night
You care enough
To shine your light

I know we're not made to last
And we're just all passing through
And there's a price that must be paid
For every thoughtless thing we do
But I want you to know, before I go
That I still believe in you

Make me open in my heart
Make me grateful when old friends part
Give me the pleasure of memories
Of my joyful reveries
Even though some drift and are gone
Give me the strength to smile and go on

I still believe in you
Even if the good book ain't all true
But I surely know
Even in the darkest night
You care enough
To shine your light

 

(c) Frank Howson 2017

DAY IS DONE

It's push and shove
And Christmas Eve
You stole my heart
Now I wear it on my sleeve
And I'm standing here
Where a boy once stood
When he dreamed of worlds
That lay beyond the woods...

Daniel Boone and Peter Pan
Davy Crockett and Spiderman
We fought together
Blood brothers every one
We used to save the world
Before each day was done...

It's winter now
On Nelson Street
The shadow men
Celebrating my defeat
Never been afraid
And not about to start
So they stole my dreams
Don't mean they broke my heart

Daniel Boone and 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...

And I'm wishing hard
On every star I see
That you'll find a place
In your heart for me...

It's Silent Night
And final drinks
I'm too far gone
To hear what anybody thinks
Now I'm walking home
Can someone tell me
Where that is?
Somewhere someone wakes
To a Christmas kiss

Daniel Boone and Peter Pan
Davy Crockett and Spider Man
I fought beside them
And with Zorro I would run
We used to save the world
Before each day was done...

Before each day was done...

It's done...


Cc) Frank Howson 1998