the o’connell street tides


I’m not quite comfortable with that fireplace, amor,
or the smoke from all the books you’re burning.

I was working through the Dewey Decimals,
I’d kept a little eight two one.

You told me everything defined is lost
by definition,
a soul’s reflection in a mirror.
I thought it best to undefine myself.

We need a chimenea.
I’ll remodel with the chainsaw.

The chainsaw roars, she says a little more
I cannot hear.


The latest robots dream of tail lights and freeways
in their sleep beside the road at night,
but nocturnal waves are rushing down
O’Connell Street, dressed
in moonlight foam and spray.

At President Avenue, the boiling flood
turns right, following the traffic signs,
seeking out the oceanic mother.

When their metal chassis sink into the bay,
the machines awaken briefly as they drown:
submerged emergencies
where darting fish investigate
the flashing indications.


My street’s a coastal wetland now,
the residents either human or amphibious,
and the homeless push their salt encrusted
shopping carts along the sand,
scour the crumbling driftwood houses
for ingredients to prepare
a seafood bisque or spaghetti marinara.

It’s best to travel inland,
Moema says,
and asks if I will join her.

My reasoning comes from knowing
all of failure’s secrets.
Thinking is the breakfast of the baby bear,
exaggeration leads to logic
and despair.

I say no, a word
synesthetically colored
a shade of peach,
and ask if she will leave alone.

She says yes,
indigo on my personal
chromatic scale.

Now she’s gone. I stay I wait and dream.

The maple in the yard is shedding.
Its leaves are shoals of angel fish
patterned peach and indigo,
carried windward to the sea.


  • Goldilocks and the Three Bears (the goldilocks principle)
  • O’Connell Street features in the o’connell street ocean as well. This particular O’Connell Street isn’t wonderfully noteworthy, it relates to my personal geography. It does get a mention in Michael Dransfield’s “Lines for a Friend, 1948-1965” (Collected Poems, University of Queensland Press, 1993):

You will not see again the way
the morning sun floods down O’Connell Street …

possible showers in the late afternoon (detail above)

20 thoughts on “the o’connell street tides

  1. So famous, your Street. Mentions everywhere. Such a wonderful contemplation – mine is a sound canyon that is also a river.

    I found the ‘yes’ and the ‘no’ very striking in this piece Steve. A pleasure to read.

    • Yes, albeit a limited fame. 🙂 Your street sounds intrinsically more interesting.

      I’m pleased that the yes/no worked. I wanted to write it in although I had some reservations. I don’t have synesthesia, but I had a dream where I saw the colors of ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ They were very precise (more than I described above) and very real. I think it comes across when you write what is real to you, even when it’s not objective reality. Thanks Frank, glad you enjoyed. 🙂

    • They came across very ‘traffic light’ strong to me Steve, for what that’s worth.

      Also, streets are marvelous things. I doubt anyone at all on my street would think it remarkable, yet remarkable things can be made to happen on it.

    • It means a lot, thanks Frank. Perhaps the secret of perceiving/creating marvels in a street might have something to do with not wanting to drive from one end of it to the other in the shortest time possible. 🏎

  2. I admire the understatement of the first stanza. Had I written those they would include words like panic, frenzy, screams and probably tears. 🙂 (I’d prefer the redefining process without the act of burning books. But thanks for keeping poetry). Great writing, as always, and the artwork is beautiful.

    • Thanks, I enjoyed writing ‘the tides,’ and I can confirm that no books were harmed in the making of the piece, although I experimented a little with a chainsaw. 😀 You’re very welcome as far as the poetry is concerned.

      Back when Brazil was a military dictatorship, I was working at the University of São Paulo during a nation-wide strike. The military police came onto the campus (naturally) and one thing they did was go to the library and destroy a lot of books. I have no idea why, I can only guess it was some sort of unfocused rage, so maybe Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 isn’t as fictional as we might hope.

  3. Blew me away. An abundance of riches. “My reasoning comes from knowing all of failure’s secrets.” “At President Avenue, the boiling flood turns right…” The image of a maple tree shedding leaves of angel fish… Just back from a swim and savored it slowly. The graphic is perfect with it. Gracias, Steve.

    • Haha, de nada BG. Heading in the general direction of spring here. They’ve started burning off (bushfire prevention) so a few very smokey days, and I’ve been doing some pre-spring chainsawing as well. 😸

      Failure is one of my areas of expertise. 🤓 I tell myself the only way to not fail is not to do anything. Applies to me anyway. I did the graphic afterwards, starting with a photo of clouds. Pretty sure my computer’s smarter than me. 🤖

    • Thanks Sascha. The art is a bit of a sore point. I don’t exactly know how Florence did it and she wants a new cpu before she’ll tell me. We’re not on the best of terms–she says calling her an AI is offensive, and she’s started calling me the artificial intelligence. 🤖

    • Quite possibly, although she’s a bit of a snob. It depends on how you score with the Dhrystone and Whetstone arithmetic processor benchmarks. I typically score… let me think… that’s right, zero. 😜

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