The story of Julian who will never know we loved him
there’s a drunk on the train spouting Kant
that’s the dude who changed my life.
he lurches up the aisle woolies bag swinging
off his elbow slips sideways through space
lands on shrinking laps apologies sways
on Kant changed everything.
the man sitting next to me tries to become
invisible plugs in his ear phones climbs
into his computer but the drunk spies him
and like fate see-saws towards him
stands by his seat holding the rail his
weaving hips unknotting the tight Sydney night.
ever wonder where your ideas come from?
he is thrown – sinks
into the seat opposite chuckles
takes a swig from his goon cask
and it sways like a pendulum at his elbow.
but where do you get your meaning?
‘from my wife and children.’
again he is thrown – and flashes a grin
like the sun coming out its spark
lighting the dark with all its vanished
promise. he leans forward whispers
that’s a bit old fashioned, man.
‘yeah, I know, but that’s ok with me’
and it’s done – he thrusts his hand across
the divide – friend! I’m Julian, brother
and laughs opens his phone
a flash on the screen
my son Jeremiah named after a prophet
and the curtain falls.
it begins at his forehead a crumpling
of skin pulls his mouth into such
a contortion we have to look away.
the man next to me unplugs his ear
phones puts away his computer
and offers up his attention
it’s enough to make a philosopher
when the police step in at the next station
he has slipped into a narcolepsy of grief
and booze as they take him away we
say ‘take care of him’
. ‘he’s a philosopher’
. ‘he’s in pain’
‘aren’t they all,’ they mumble.
the train rattles on without him
no Kant no bursts of light
people get up from their seats
and ask questions about jail cells
his grazed cheek and chipped tooth.
he has gone –
and he’ll never know we loved him
on a late Sydney train last March.
Julie Watts is a Western Australian writer and Counsellor/ Play Therapist who lives by the coast with her family. She has been published in various journals and anthologies including: Westerly, Cordite, Australian Poetry Anthology, Australian Love Poems 2013, and the Anthology of Contemporary Australian Feminist Poetry. She was shortlisted for the Newcastle Poetry Prize 2016 and the prestigious, Montreal International Poetry Prize 2017. Julie won the 2016 Hunters Grieve Project for her poem, ‘Calvary’, and the 2017 Blake Poetry Prize for ‘The story of Julian who will never know we loved him’. Julie’s debut poetry collection, Honey & Hemlock, was published by Sunline Press in 2013. Her unpublished manuscript of her second book of poetry, Legacy, was recently shortlisted for The Dorothy Hewett Award 2018.
‘The story of Julian who will never know we loved him’ wins the 2017 Blake Poetry Prize.
The judges of the 2017 Blake Poetry Prize said that, “The story of Julian who will never know we loved him is a poem with a strength that fills the void of the different perspectives and understanding of the English language. It is the poem that both learned and unschooled by mainstream Australia, people who read from vastly different cultural mindsets, will share the message of this poem.”