Melbourne CBD Winter, 2018.

I’m In the Mood for Love, after Bryan Ferry


The tram stutters

she falls into him

his chin on her crown

a jut that steadies

her face angled

and eyes like polished coins

this peck on  feathery cheek

he coos back softly

his overcoat a winged embrace

another two loiter

slumming it

beside broken glass

and graffiti screams,

sleek and unlined skin

beneath distressed denim

camera phone aloft

behold the millennial moue

there, another pair

wispy grey hair flying

a swirl of polluting wind

he pushes through first

hand small in his palm

she walks a beat behind

in footsteps

cleared of debris

They are everywhere

these lovers

a trespasser

through triple-glazed glass

I watch them with

the head of a cynic

the heart of a poet


down blustery corners

cocoa and milk fed warm

eternity scarves

over plump white necks

hiding traces

of yesterday’s coupling.

Sometimes I think life would be far more interesting if, like in the movies, there’s a soundtrack playing in the background during moments of great emotional resonance. And so it goes, one wintry day wandering about alone in the CBD streets of Melbourne, I had in my mind’s ear, the haunting strains of In the Mood for Love when, almost accidentally, I kept seeing lovers everywhere. The soundtrack to the Wong Kar-wai film is exquisite, and although this particular song never appeared in the movie itself, the title of the film, In the Mood For Love, was inspired by the dapper, honey-tongued and hair-slicked Bryan Ferry. It’s just about the sexiest song I can think of as well. Every time I hear it, I think of sashaying Maggie Cheung in her sinewy, skintight cheongsams, lowered eyes in quiet, coquettish half-glances at the debonair, immaculately suited Tony Leung, who’s equally transfixed by this splendid vision before him. It’s a song about the frisson of sexual and romantic connection and what’s so piquant and poignant about it is that the film is about dashed opportunities for such possibilities. There is seduction without undressing; volumes said without a single word.

So, Melbourne: among the weary commuters furrowed with bone-coldness, among the stripped trees and leaden dirty-linen skies, are all these lovers popping up like red-capped buttony mushrooms. I was not surprised to learn that the original title for the movie was The Age of Blossoms. Here, now, even as the heavens threaten to open and umbrellas are poised at the ready, Ferry’s plaintive plea If there’s a cloud above/ If it should rain, we’ll let it/ But for tonight forget it/I’m in the mood for love… is enough to herald  the sense of beginnings, of beauty and freshness and Spring.


Poem published in Turbulence by Thuy On.

Thuy is a freelance literary journalist, critic and editor whose work has appeared in various publications including The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian Book Review and Books+Publishing. For the last six years she has also been the Books editor of The Big Issue. Her collection, Turbulence, was published in early 2020 by UWA Publishing.