Attitude: Don Juan in the Shopping Mall

by S. K. Kelen

Let us fly to bounty land...Aqua


Today’s Don Juan could be any of a million characters:
Mohammed Hatim a wayward son of the Mujahideen,
Doan Huan sporting a Da Nang pedigree, or Mario
Lanza living out a serious fetish for muscle cars, Jim Giakos
Many moons from the post office in Kiama and they
All love soccer — true — choose one or make your own character
Whoever, his forebears came by boat from somewhere
Migrants — survivors — refugees — settlers safely


Tucked in bed ashore the island of shopping malls
Now these families call Fortress Australia home.
Click an ethnic option. Call him Juan keep it simple
Who wants to be a millionaire? Our hero had an inkling
His place on the great wheel of fire reincarnated
By a poem, a poem reincarnated! Now wherever migrants
And natives gather, there’ll be Don Juan. Or movies
Or poems like this one with Don Juan hanging around.


Time for the shipwreck—a starfish on bleached coral.
Big island like Australia has plenty of coastal treachery
Juan’s boat hit a storm before he was even born.
Back home families and traditions were trampled in dust
Those who got out brought memories of homelands
Turned nasty: torture, hunger, every day some
Bad news, ruins, guns and weeping. The world
Turns its back. That’s the modern shipwreck.


Juan’s parents made it ashore and found an island
Of peaceful streets and shopping malls, paradise where all
Comers are welcome and there’s nothing between people
But a bond called mateship and the spirit of the ‘fair go’.
The past could be forgiven beginning with happy endings
In the brave new lucky country of the mall.
Thus into slippery times Juan was born a happy mongrel
Family background tick multicultural


Two centuries after the British boat folks washed ashore.
With his birth certificate Juan got a bicentennial medal.
Brought up by MTV in rap and gangsta lore
(Read baseball cap) like everyone he relaxed & watched
Each fresh war start with a bang & a whimper on TV
Washed it all down with beer and pizza. His accent is dinkum
Aussie but to many Juan was dark like a foreign country.
Not every where’s a mall, outside there’s a world


Incredibly sad — as seen on TV — huge swathes of continents
Where children search for shrapnel to sell for scrap
Where there’s no food on the table, where there’s no table
The nearest shopping mall’s a thousand miles away.
Here, on the island, the mall is everywhere.
The earth moves under Parramatta Road and the wind
Ruffles a bird of paradise’s tail feathers.
Traffic zoom drowns speech, outdoors


A sin of traffic exhales and the engines’ great hum
Fills every corner and the sky is beautiful toxic grey
You drive with the heart and drive till you’re done
So right to be a maniac — don’t go there — roadside
Doomed hands reach up from the steering wheel
— Juan left his chariot parked underground —
Inside the mall is safe and warm. Atoms vibrate
Molecules agitate and bring the blessed their reward.

Shopping’s a way of life except for the bored
Cashless kids the mall management tries to keep out
But wants them back to join in and spend they listen up
Flamenco muzak is ecstasy and like a dragon’s
Spine, the escalators rise, rise
And glide among the shiniest place of all time.
Up, up shining the way paradise should shine.
Fashion is as fashion does post-modern style &


Bliss grows fresh from the strawberry’s heart
Glows rockmelon, avocado and smoked salmon
For the masses, the fragrant mix of simmering meat,
Baking bread, hairdressers’ vinyl incense,
Happy roasting coffee beans, chocolate
And all the world’s ice-cream, kebabs and
Hamburgers’ crackling aroma you can eat the air.
There’s gadget apparition digital virtual electronic


Electric, mountains of myrrh, silver appliances
Raw pearls for faithful lovers. Come buy! come buy!
Say signs and glowing screens, sports clothes, shoes, mobile
Phones, cane furniture, over a million cds, and health’s accessories
Are all for love and family. Things. The escalators carry shoppers
To the dollar’s many possibilities. The mall is happy hunting, a
Gleaming chapel, farm and village magic well,
Radiant hub and sacred site: two-hundred shops sell


What people want or can afford and the mall gives
Warmth and truth: tinsel music, indoor forest,
Pets, banks, books, cameras and food without end
Oceans away from the rubble and tents
And the magic goes home with a happy customer.
All the houses and flats are furnished, decorated
Supplied by the mall and all the homes add up
And make a giant house and whether his place or hers


Everything was warm, gratifying like making love
In a furniture showroom, at home the mall kept satisfying.
Sometimes Juan sells Pace and Ease in the mall’s shady corners.
He’s discreet, part of the mall’s culture. Now Juan
Works the mall searching for a pulse, gazing at blue
Windows when security stop and ask where he’s going
Where he’s been — times like this feel kind of low — he
Considers the happy fates of serious school mates


Good citizens populating new suburbs and interstate.
Explorers from the Middle East and Indochina.
They’d borne the souls of family-caring birds or mammals,
Not like a wolf. ‘Hey Juan!’ someone calls from a shopfront,
‘Hey Juan — your life sucks.’ Hanging round in the mall
Might suck. Being a nine to five loser really sucked especially
When you can be Don Juan spinning the wheel of life.
Bring it on, bring on whatever life brings. A robot moment


Calm robots squeeze up and down the escalators
Juan nods to robot acquaintances — humanoid
Ravers disguised as normal people. They haunt
The clubs where disco perfect grace keeps people
In touch with their feelings. In a healthy society
People think about sex once every five seconds.
Juan ‘s companions came and went — in a world
Where you grow up mainly so you can pay the bills


Juan was fine to spend time with, occasionally.
Pillow talk means you’re not dead yet and sometimes
It is good to be desperate. As with melancholy
You don’t need hunger to do desperate. In fact
A bit of cash means you can do desperate with style
Like Byron the romantic saint was wealthy yet melancholy,
And desperate to live life. He knew he’d be gone
Before completing his epic about Don Juan, a youth who

Loved to charm houses full of women whose names like
Aurora, Julia, Haidée, and Adeline were the many names of roses.
And on a hot night, Juan was cool as. Some push
Their luck the young punk Juan caught on shaky video
Sipping eagerly at love’s chalice. Angels shout delight
Dance the bulimic babes’ dance. Then the Botticellis’.
O veiled breasts o comet eyes, honey hush
There are souls and eyes and lush places to go.


Cabramatta Headline (shrapnel demons) haiku
Race relations success
these three Vietnamese boys
shoot up with skinheads
Apparatchiks might mention theory, ‘isms’ or morality
At this juncture ‘specially politics or the sacred cow of law
As Juan’s dad told him ‘always vote for the least worst fascist’
A hand of friendship: your government let refugees drown in the sea.


It’s way better at Aurora’s flat her underwear is simply magic
Signals the body and spirit are harmonious. Juan swoons, melts
Swears undying love. Who cares? A good time fully zonked
An eight-day romp is a journey like any journey a trip
Upon which a youth might embark at the third
Flush of hormones. Writing a poem can be free or be
A kind of whipping, sweet torture of rhyme! The
Original Don Juan was composed in ottava rima,


A stanza of eight lines of heroic verse, rhyming
Abababcc, used here as a kind of primer to paint words on.
‘As useful as painting coral reefs,’ history growls in its cage.
Desist from the gentle reader stuff. Forget the paint and primer
Time to log on Playstation® game Shopping Mall Don Juan 2010
The opening level sees Juan racing through a maze
Of streets talking behind hands, smiling like a butcher or
A therapist waiting while sirens wail around him.


You’ve got to figure out what he’s doing to proceed
To the next level. Passing through a twirling screen
Icon earns extra life and strength to fight on
And save the kung-fu princess bride.
But first the car park, get in the car, turn the key
The noble steed Impreza gallops up the ramp
Beats the traffic six thumping speakers
In the doors & under the dash a 24-valve injected


Powers alloy wheels, the engine’s grunt
Floats like a discotheque above curvy freeway.
Finds a place at the bar, spinning stars punctuate
Sees eyes and sees the soul smiling in the eyes.
Every time Juan steps on the pavement
He steps into a new car (dream option) a power girl
Hands him an orgasm in a tall glass. Now Juan has to interact
With his city’s myths — urban cowboy, tribes and gangs,


Witty lawyers, the town and country mouse, aliens (imagine)..
Best of all the Sincere Young Miss Who Brings Humanity
To a Man’s Monster Soul. Together, powers combined
They confront life’s disasters. Live happily ever after.
But Juan craved love the way a poem might dream many
Readers or a parched traveller chase desert mirages
And Juan found oases real enough, felt oneness
With his calling to see loveliness like a bird set free


By touch and kiss and share his wicked happiness.
Juan took care of himself and stayed alive worked out
Seriously at the fitness centre adjacent to the mezzanine.
As tensile as a loaded spring a nunchaku on a fling
...and he felt good, mind and body without fear
Every five seconds he thought about sex and
Juan’s mind made love with the atmosphere.
His goddesses are fine with most of this. Karen a sunny


Blonde florist brought breathless roses and camellias.
Kandy baked at the bakery. Kelly the indoor pet specialist
Say no more. Wendy had a room out the back at Toys-R-Us.
Cherry was Cafe Cognoscenti’s creamy gal. Lisa brought rustic
Charm from the hardware store checkout. Fan just hung around.
Svelte Lee Lin from the emporium undressed behind a paper screen,
Kathleen, a sandy haired beautician, was a dream outdoors in the rain
Poppies and tulips grew wild in Juan’s garden and kept life sane.


Like lions men should lead their natural lazy lives—
What happens when you reach the use-by date?
When Juan was out of it he might philosophise —
Everything lives and dies, souls go on or end
You find out soon enough, and Juan had bodies to attend.
To wake at noon’s beautiful daze and hear high heels
Clatter down the hallway and not know who it is
Until she walks in the door is a happy state of being.


And remembers ah Lee Lin lovely, brilliant. The escalators call.
Driving to the mall Juan sees the troika of hairdressers
Who made New Year’s Eve such a treat — a shocker —
A hard body works harder with chemicals driving.
Superficial? It beats being Hitler or Martin Bryant or
A political jerk who profits from poor children crying.
Everyone here’s happy polluting the world
With garbage and dreams and with Nature dying


Juan knew it was too late to save the Earth.
You might as well enjoy the technology and the girls.
If you’re honest in life there’s no need for sincerity.
Romance, however, is always necessary.
Flowers, chocolates and conversation (sigh). Juan
Learned early from TV that puddles multiply the moon
And the white moon trapped by quiet lily pond
Distracts lovers them moaning full deep.


But when you swallow a karaoke machine — as Juan had —
Sparks fly, smoke and flames erupt, the microphone attacks
And tears your shirt off. A weekend of wrong choices
Read their eyes and hear their voices. Who want something.
This afternoon in the coffee shop Juan watches
Angels fall through the atrium’s glass roof their buckets
And brooms fell from heaven on his head. Graffiti
Swirled like a prayer, the rippling of her lovely hair.


Regarding the matter of Lee Lin’s brothers. Five
Big Brothers — old fable when billy goats gruff
Meet Aladdin. He met the guys at the club.
Juan’s life choices made for him: a fine son-in-law
Or painful ending, there’s nothing like a shotgun
Wedding to focus and give closure. Juan saw the future
Wearing a white linen suit and liked the look. He settled
Down with Lee Lin and worked for her family’s emporium.


Three years in accounts then Juan & Lee Lin flew out.
Lee Lin would run the family’s Jakarta warehousing wing
There’d been disputes and Juan’s doubtless charms
Could prove persuasive, pivotal. And Juan stepped
Up to the next level: a Jakarta mall pushing a stroller
Down a shiny escalator. Outside is hot & raining so many lives,
Beginnings and endings, Juan’s and Lee Lin’s hearts entwined
The world rose and fell around them, breathing.

S. K. Kelen's picture

S. K. Kelen is a widely published Australian poet. His most recent books are Goddess of Mercy (Brandl & Schlesinger, 2002), and Earthly Delights (Pandanus Press, 2006)

Last updated July 19, 2011