Sounds of Newtown

by suecartledge

Dog's eye view2

I wrote this poem to enter in a competition for poetry about your local neighbourhood. It didn’t get anywhere in the comp, but I was quite pleased with it.

The last three lines need some explanation for people who haven’t lived in Newtown (Sydney, Australia).
1/ The Post Office clock has been stopped at 25 to 3 (2:35 pm) for the 22 years I’ve lived in or visited Newtown. There may still be some elderly residents who can remember the clock chiming the hour and half-hour.

2/ Unlike other inner-city, Inner West suburbs, Newtown doesn’t suffer from aircraft noise. When the second runway for Sydney’s Kingsford Smith Airport was built in the late 1990s, the flightpath went directly over several inner western suburbs. Here in Leichhardt, I get the squeals, whines and roars of take-off and descent roughly ten times an hour. Newtown, being slightly to the east of the flightpath is overflown by planes at cruising altitude drifting silently overhead.

Sounds of Newtown

I hear the carillon’s chime as I walk

in the early morning through the uni grounds;

in the park, the fountain tinkles, ducks wake with a snort

pigeons chatter and magpies, aping angels, give praise

traffic roars down Broadway, sirens blaring

dopplering towards, then past, as bus brakes squeal

I hear footsteps clattering on the pavement:

high heel boots rattatat, sneakers patapat, ugh boots flop

the flip-flap of thongs

the whine of a bike wheeling swiftly by

a scooter’s squeal, soft rumble of a pram

pedestrian lights chittering go go go!

I hear coffee machines spurt and gush

chatter and laughter, clatter and clink

tinny ipod doof-doof, mobile phones, urgent calls

beeps and murmurs from ATMs, beggars’ pleading

car doors slam, dogs yap and yawn, babies squall

I hear no chimes from the post office clock

no roar from the planes high in the clouds

no word from my lover.

© S Cartledge 2011

A note about the picture: the Dog, standing proud atop the public noticeboard at the intersection of King Street and Enmore Road, references the area’s nineteenth and early-to-mid 20th century industrial history. Many of the men living in Newtown, Darlington, Enmore, Erskineville and Macdonaldtown, were engineers, metal workers, and labourers at the Railway Workshop at Eveleigh, which built and maintained the steam, then diesel and electric, locomotives for the NSW Government railway system.

The Workshops closed in 1988, and the magnificent buildings are now venues for concerts, festivals and art exhibitions. The Dog was  designed and built by a former Eveleigh metalworker. Photo © S Cartledge 2005

I write about Newtown in the 1970s in my other blog, Horror Headlines from daggy old Newtown, telling the stories behind the poems in my verse novel Newtown Voices.

You can read more about Newtown Voices, about me, and where to buy the book at newtownvoices.