Elly McDonald


Esplanade (25 June 1978)


At night, in winter, in St Kilda
the bayside highway forms a halo. Cars
like comets blazing at and into me.
Walking into lights, the cold, the hard clean bayside night,
their energy recharges me.

Melbourne at night, a winter night, has no sunsets, no stars.
Instead, a rose-tinted, glass-panelled airport and
the traffic current.
There are no stars in the bay. The water reflects
the grey mist ripples, smothered night, that functions as a sky.

In winter, Melbourne nights are tones of grey on black and red and
amber aura light.
An empty Brighton crossroad, tusk-like railway lines.
Each street-light traps a sparkling mist,
electric dew.

is a cage. Held down by tram-wire steel-nets overhead,
this city is straitjacketed,
sedated in the luminous haze of clouded sky and mist and bay.
Bright lights gleaming, flashing meteor
prison bar tramlines, wire sky leveller, cutting down…

By day the Melbourne summer sky
is violet tinged, not azure.
I remember
night-time skies as light,
when dull red dust clouds billowed down
escaped the gully, loomed above the dry town
I once called my home.

Five years, I said, and so with sentence up
I am glad to be on schedule.
Facing into lights, the world, the hard clean unchained wind…
I never called Melbourne home.

Written age 17 on the day I formally dropped out of university.

Author: Elly McDonald

Australian-born, with English mother, has lived in several Australian cities and in London. Travelled widely. Way way back when, published widely as a poet and short story writer.

4 thoughts on “Esplanade (25 June 1978)

  1. A very moving poem, Elly. Thank you for posting these elegant pictures of Melbourne nights. I like the choice of Esplanade as the name of your poem.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Evocative. As I read, before learning your age at writing, my mind was flooded with memories of Melbourne, from childhood and adolescence. I never could write poetry, I wish otherwise so I could write a response, now, at age 68. I have lost all affection for the city I spent my first 20 years.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That said, I feel for Melbourne and Melbournians in the current Stage 4 lockdown. I love their restaurants and cafes and art galleries and sports events and music venues and I can’t wait for Melbourne to come alive again.


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