'Public Spaces: Mind Street Virus' by Peter Polites

Public Spaces are contested sites, places that are inscribed and then re-inscribed by history, experience, memory, power. For issue 34, the Brow asked four writers to tell us about a space that, for whatever reason, is meaningful to them as a site of resistance or empowerment.

You entered the street at witching hour and there was a sign with big nostalgic lettering that said ‘Welcome to Whatever!’ The sign grew out of blue-green buffalo grass and underneath it a cursive font announced that this place was the ‘Home of the Kerbside Landfill and Kidnapped Shopping Trolley’. On either side of the street were some high density apartments filled with low income apparatchiks. They conglomerated in committees on balconies of red brick flats that were three storeys high. Was barbecue city that day and smoke rose like clumps of plastic bags from the balconies. Might have made you think that there was a lonesomeness amongst rock cliffs that were nobody’s business. This was never your home, your land, but when you parked your arse on a three-foot-high fence next to mail boxes (that go up to the same number as your age) you saw it. It was a Painted Firetail, a variety of Australian Finch—Emblema Picta—and it was tethered by masticated saliva to an awning. And because once you were the Goody Two Shoes type, you climbed up to free it. You placed the delicate thing between your index finger and thumb and dislodged it. The protected species flew off. She flew away. She navigated those clumps-of-plastic-bag smoke that came from the barbecues, and from binocular eyes you saw all up the street of your mind. And it wasn’t witching hour. It was dinnertime. Those balcony apparatchiks had endangered avian species on the barbecues. Coals burned, filling your nostrils with burning feathers and scorched beaks and just—my oh my—the humanity of it.

Read the other three pieces in this series—by Simona Castrium, Chloe Reeson, and Susana Moreira Marques—in The Lifted Brow #34. Get your copy here.

Peter Polites is a member of SWEATSHOP. His first book is called Down the Hume and is published by Hachette.