radiator-building
HIGHRISE
by Victoria McGrath

I’m standing on the fifth floor balcony of my life and
you’d think that, from here, the view would knock your socks
off. I thought I’d see spectaculars: the Thames, Times Square,
the Sydney Opera House. At least the Eiffel Tower’s frilly

underpants. But the canopy hangs at just about my elevation,
dubious and loose, and not that easy to see through. I thought
there’d be some sense of accomplishment living at this height,
a particular felicity. But it pains me to say that all I really feel

is a little dizzy. Below, in the shadows, I can almost recognise
fragments of the sweepings that I’ve lost from the ramparts
over the years. Phone numbers, passwords, keys. Everything
to do with calculus, and some critical bits of the 12 times table.

Names. So many forgotten names. And purpose. Not-quite-born
babies. My father’s face. It’s terrible to hover over history
like this. It threatens to remove me. I find it hard to focus on
people anymore and I’m surprised when I realise this comes as

a relief. I once liked them better, liked their privacies, their
collective contradictions. These days I admit I can’t work them
out. They imitate each other. Their user-names congregate on
the lower storeys, where they fumble through their judgements

like a bum rummaging in a bin for crumbs, before desperately
trying to beat the Joneses up the back stairs. To be honest,
it’s all getting to be a bit of a slog now. The stairs are steep,
and perilous with slippery memories. I’d really like to settle in

to some comfortable armchair for a while, high-backed and
made of leather, indulgently polished by other backsides
that like to read and ruminate. But the joints get restless
and I can’t help wondering what might await me when

I emerge onto the roof at last. With my luck, I’ll stumble up
that final step only to be confronted with a cold metal slammer,
firmly bolted and embellished with the declaration:

          FIRE DOOR – PLEASE KEEP CLOSED
 
Right now my framework feels ramshackle and remote, almost
empty, except for the faint drone of lonely poets, the gamy glow
of boasts and blundering, and the simple hum of an accountant
down the hall, who’s hard at work depreciating the high life,

busy totting up the cost of pots and black kettles.

IMAGE: “The Radiator Building” by Georgia O’Keeffe (1927).

Victoria1

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Victoria McGrath is an emerging poet who lives in country New South Wales, Australia, and is a graduate of the Australian National University. She has won a number of poetry awards and was shortlisted in 2013 for the prestigious Newcastle Poetry Prize. She has been published in journals and anthologies in Australia and the U.S. and has performed in a range of events, including twice as featured poet at the Bundanoon Winterfest. A publisher has expressed interest in her first, not quite finished, manuscript.