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.
– Kenneth Slessor.
Perhaps everyone has their own Choker’s Lane Perhaps it is a state of mind. But those who seek it always find their way.
In Choker’s Lane, the doors of the brothels are said to loom ‘like black and shining coffin-lids’. Everybody has a sordid story about the Lane, though its exact location varies in the telling. It lies somewhere in the twisting maze of backstreets north (or is it south?) of Kings Cross in inner Sydney. The Lane is crowded with the lost, broken and homeless—desperate runaways and petty gamblers, mentally ill war veterans and hopeless addicts.
Effecting a facade of the ordinary by day, with the coming of darkness Choker’s Lane opens its hungry maw. Brothels, clubs, sly grog shops, opium dens and low-life dives operate in the midst of poverty-stricken slum tenements. The atmosphere is sordid, but hallucinatory. In Choker’s Lane, people feel fully alive.
Daz Studio and Photoshop. Part of the background for ‘Turn of Midnight Waters’.