Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Tuesday Poem: "Obese Man in Oxford Street"

The obese man loomed like a pedestrian iceberg
on the Oxford Street footpath.
His black trousers flapped like a nomad’s tent.
I heard the Mongolian desert song of guy ropes
plucked like harp strings by a nimble wind.
His white shirt billowed,
a sail sprayed by the salt of his sweat.
Like an otter emerging from an oil slick,
his lacquered grey hair gasped for air
as frequently as he did.
He noted people’s stares as though compiling
a catalogue of slights.
With the defiance of a pensioned-off circus freak
he answered my gaze.

The poet wishes to acknowledge The West Australian in whose pages a version of this poem first appeared.


  1. I love the image of the otter emerging from an oil slick applied to the man's hair. Is this a New Zealand Oxford Street, or is it Sydney's Oxford Street, or is there an Oxford Street in WA, where it was published? How many are there, I wonder, in total?

  2. Thanks for your comment.

    To answer your question: there are probably Oxford Streets all over the former British Empire, but, as you perceptively detected, this poem was inspired by a man I encountered on Oxford Street, Leederville, Perth, WA, where I lived for several years.

    I now live in Christchurch, New Zealand, where there is an Oxford Terrace, but no street.

    As a writer, one thing that fascinates me is perception. Western society influences us to regard fat people as lazy, self-indulgent with no self-control, but in some cultures fat people are revered as symbols of abundance and prosperity.

    I guess obese people get used to being stared at which must be intrusive and very annoying.

    I'm not religious, but Jesus said a lot of wise things. Among them: "Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone."