Featured Writer Julie Watts: ‘The story of Julian who will never know we loved him’

The story of Julian who will never know we loved him

there’s a drunk on the train spouting Kant

Immanuel 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?
‘not really.’

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



Julie Watts. photograph by Andrew Burns, Imajica Photography, 2017 JPEG
 Julie Watts. photograph by Andrew Burns, Imajica Photography (2017)

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 forThe 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.”

Les Wicks reviews Honey & Hemlock by Julie Watts


Comments are closed.