community health in the new west

it is a strong attractive facade in cream brick
solid
authoritative and welcoming
it seems to make a statement

we are here for you
we will care
we are yours
we will stay

long outside walls are partially concealed
close-planted creepers and tall shrubs
a screen against close examination
but the inside is bouncing steps
on yielding floors
a carpet-coat to disguise imperfect joins
that cut across corridors
between abutted sections
sloping revelation confirms uneven floor levels
between pre-fabs #4 and #5

the footsteps and muffled speech
of fifty staff and assorted clients
rise and mingle in an invisible fog
a murmur and echo
that enters and occupies rooms 33 to 67
and sundry connecting spaces

the doors on these permanent-temporaries
have rigid aluminium frames and a handle
that is missing its keyhole
an external padlock-latch bolted at head height
has to suffice for security
and a shed-like and ramshackle quality pervades
reminiscent of an object discarded
to a place always on the edge of sight
but never clearly in focus

cramped and functional toilets
no porcelain in sight
only a small trough of galvanised flat-iron
mounted halfway up the wall
an elbow-joint from the washbasin
and a thickness of particle-board away
from sound of a baby crying
in the mothers room next door

this is permanence
here in the New West


© Frank Prem, 2002


This piece is taken from an unpublished set of poems reflecting on change over time in the Western Suburbs of Melbourne. This was an area that was turned into suburbs back in the 1950’s or thereabouts and accommodated the waves of European migration into Australia. It was know as a ‘New Australian’ area, filled with ‘wogs’ and other such unflattering names.

I knew the area as a youngster from visiting with family, and revisited as an up and coming Project Officer in the Department of Health in the late 1990’s and thereabouts.

Other poems in the set may appear (or not). Here’s one: the new west

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