Mark from Clarence Valley Today reminded me of this book one day last week, and Berkelouw's had an excellent second-hand copy of the 1981 reprint of the 1933 original. The verse is by Kenneth Slessor (from The Daily Telegraph under Frank Packer), the illustration by Virgil Reilly (from Smith's Weekly).
Choker's Lane is Slessor's amalgam of the seedy back lanes of Darlo. My 'Choker's Lane' is Short Place and Hill Street, Darlinghurst.
|In Choker's Lane, the doors appear|
Like black and shining coffin-lids,
Whose smell of flesh, long buried here,
Familiar visiting forbids.
But sometimes, when their bells are twirled
They'll show, like Hades, through the chink,
The green and watery gaslight world
Where girls have faces white as zinc.
And sometimes thieves go smoothly past,
Or pad by moonlight home again,
For even thieves come home at last,
Even the thieves of Choker's Lane.
And sometimes you can feel the breath
Of beasts decaying in their den -
The soft, unhurrying teeth of Death
With leather jaws come tasting men.
Then sunlight comes, the tradesmen nod,
The pavement rings with careless feet,
And Choker's Lane - how very odd! -
Is just an ordinary street.