Last Year’s ‘Purgatorio’

All of a sudden (it happens), I have a sudden urge to mention the Poet’s Voice project at last year’s Melbourne Writers Festival.  Five poets and five writers of prose were commissioned (!!!) by Ellen Koshland and Poet’s Voice to produce original works for contemporary Australia inspired by Dante’s ‘Purgatorio’. The performance was at St Michael’s Church on Collins Street. I so loved the dizzying freedom and the bigness of the idea and ten of us hearing each other for the first time in the darkness of the church hall. God, on the off-chance you’re listening, please give us more projects like this…

My piece – a non-fiction short story, even though there is no such thing, set in Melbourne’s Magistrates Court circa 2013 –  started this way:

This morning, that morning rather, two men in my carriage lift their heads – two men in their fifties in silky, understated ties – and then there is a little snap, like a red light camera going off, and even before the next stop is announced they are leaning into each other, laughing. How long has it been? Must be forty years, give or take. What’s been happening? They go through their classmates: two cancers (one in the middle of chemo, one cannot hack chemo), a property development fraud, one guy with too many ex-wives (just the other side of a protracted settlement, stupid bastard, he and she deserve each other). A pause. Please don’t tell me it’s all there is – fraud, cancer, bad marriages; being caught, extricating yourself, chance encounters on city loop trains; can you remember the last time life felt long or kind, or like it was yours and mine?