Friday, January 27, 2017

Anna Couani Glebe poem #4 Leichhardt Street flats

escaped from family trauma
dropped out of Uni, age 20
out of 4th year Architecture
a soft landing with my gentle partner
in hard places
finally found the flat with the dark blue lounge room
just near the old mansion
down in Leichhardt Street
that wound down to the water
turning off Glebe Point Road
exactly where the taxis do a U-turn
as I had done three years before
driving taxis out of the Red Deluxe depot
in Kings Cross

in the closed in veranda
that was our sunny kitchen
with glimpses of the harbour
later eclipsed by the new flats
I taught myself the art techniques
required for art teaching
firing enamelled copper with a blow torch
making copper repousse
casting plaster blocks for carving
building silk screens to save money
for the school that was underpaying me
listening to the radio
Gough Whitlam’s speeches
the jackhammers from the building site
Deep Purple at max volume from the flat next door
endless smoke on the water

we squeezed an old piano into the bedroom
had a cedar tabletop resting on an old leather suitcase
the quaint unusable balcony
where we put a tiny hibachi barbecque

I rented a derelict garage in Avenue Lane
an old structure at the back of newer flats
made a studio
close to St Scholasticas Girls’ School
and it turned out
I found out 40 years later
not ever having had the habit of going to church
the school chapel had 16 huge stained glass windows
by my great grandfather
old Jan Radeci
precious jewels

I stand there looking up at them now
helped to understand them
by a visiting expert
he remarks on the freedom of the brushstrokes


  1. my mum's old school - and much loathed by her!

  2. not sure, Anna

    but you also brought to mind for me the kitchen on a verandah I had in an upstairs terrace room, Fort St, Leichhardt, late seventies -- from when the house had been all bedsits ... I think capturing these times and places is a v important thing to do ... and the significance from generation to generation and how that shifts is really important too... because for me there was always something incomprehensible about the Glebe I knew as an undergraduate being the place my mum had resented as a high school scholarship girl

  3. those kitchens always seemed like death traps to me ... and the bathroom in that house morseo ... you really felt there was a strong likelihood of the water heater exploding while you were in the shower

  4. I’m really liking this Glebe series. Very evocative. I think reading them together would create a collective effect that is even ore powerful than the individuals. Is there a particular time sequence?

  5. Kit I'm surprised by the loathing you have for the Sydney inner west. Yes, the buildings are old and worn but that is part of the loveliness of the place. We occupy two dishevelled old buildings and we love them. Maybe you've lived too long in modern apartments! My Mum lived in Glebe as a girl too and loved it but she wasn't subjected to a Catholic education like your Mum. That kind of experience can colour the landscape. I also have a rather negative view of my high school, Sydney Girls, hated it, the sense of stricture.
    Magdalena, thanks for your response. The poems are a set. The sequence is not strictly chronological, there is another organising principle, more discursive.

  6. no loathing at all

    I'm very nostalgic, esp for Newtown
    and as my memories are stuck in the 70s and 80s I always marvel at how green and how cool it all is today

  7. The vision of the flats and all the artistic industry within is really lovely, a haven. I respond to the familial threads and connections running through the places. I would love to see the stained glass windows.