Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tuesday Poem: "The Shamans of Mandurah - Part One: The Wanderer"

Towering over the townsfolk, yet unnoticed,
The Wanderer ambles through the streets of Mandurah.
His white shirt and black pants
are well-worn but clean.
Close-cropped silver hair frames his gentle face.
Like a bear forgotten by a travelling circus,
he can be seen rambling to
Furnissdale or Halls Head or Silver Sands.
As he pauses to quench his vision,
God’s butler offers him the silver-plated estuary,
the piece de resistance sprinkled with pelicans.
Looking at the old bridge,
he sees the fisherfolk jostling for casting space.
He wanders on alone,
past the real estate offices
where homogenised photos of faceless suburbs
shout out their dreams
in the form of women’s names
or advertising executives’ utopian fantasies.
As The Wanderer passes,
Mr White-Kneesocks-Safari-Suit shakes his head,
knowing he cannot sell him a mortgaged prison.

NOTE: In a previous incarnation, I drove taxis in a smallish town (with ambitions to be a city) called Mandurah which was about 72km south of Perth. For Kiwis, try to imagine Mount Manganui in the 1960s/1970s and you would get the picture of what it was like when I lived in Mandurah. As a taxi driver, I had plenty of time for observation (fuel for the writer's imagination) and I noticed that there were a number of eccentric personalities/characters that lived in Mandurah. I had the feeling that these characters I dubbed "shamans" were not appreciated in Mandurah. I think that the town fathers and others of their ilk who liked to project an image of Mandurah as a modern, clean, tidy, family-friendly tourist destination saw the "shamans" as blots on the shiny, shiny vista they envisaged. I'm sure if they could have had them re-located somewhere out of sight, they would have. Personally, I love social "outliers". They make life interesting.


  1. You must have met many interesting folk driving taxis in a small town, Andrew! I agree, social outliers have a lot to offer. I was particularly drawn to the image of the wanderer like a bear forgotten by a travelling circus - it paints such an apt picture.

  2. He very much reminded me of a bear in that he was large in height and build, but not really fat, just a big man. And people seemed to equate his size with the potential for violence and aggression whereas, like many bears, he just wanted to be left alone and, if left alone, he wouldn't hurt a fly. I could sense he had a gentle, but sad nature.

  3. The Mandurah of today is an even more extreme version of what you describe. Real estate agents flog multi-million dollar "dream homes" (that have absolutely no appeal to me) yet Mandurah has the highest rates of bankruptcies amongst lower income people. A report on social conditions in Mandurah described "a tale of two cities" as the differences between the haves and have-nots are so extreme here. Last year a father and his two children died in a camping ground when the tent they were living in burnt down, just a few hundred metres from multi-million dollar homes. Sadly you would find much of intrest here to update your beautifully observed poem.