By | 3 February 2024

When you took my hand that first night
we were walking along the red brick mall
from the pub to the teller
at the foot of the old State Bank
that had just collapsed
– not literally or right then
but dissolved a full year ago
except the dark draped pall
remained, resistant to kicking feet.
Almost in an effort to blast it all loose
the building from teller to neon top
had been rebranded BankSA –
new leaf, remaining live limb
bought out by Advance Bank
which would soon itself be gobbled up …

not that we knew or would know any of this;
I didn’t have a clue, wrapped up as I was,
oblivious, like a child.
Everything seemed in bloom that night.

A few weeks later you called me Babe
and, startled, I didn’t know what to do
so I called you Babe back
wasn’t sure if it would stick
wasn’t sure if we would stick.
Five years on I had to admit –
it was de facto – it had moved in
just as we had with each other
in the bush, literally babes in the woods.

Later when we had actual babes
we would keep the same spots
for one another, duplicate names
and even in the deepest shades
of adult place: churches, banks and trades
we would draw on it like a fresh spring
and it blossomed into pyjamaed slang
loose morning mumbles, riffed streams,
wood-fired steam, evening pre-sleep dreams.

Finally, by your final hospital bed
holding your hand as you quivered a touch,
certain words said, others rote
many unsaid, a few that couldn’t be approached
but there was one, just one.

A few months on, mornings of staring
at tree limbs and coffee mugs,
a new Medicare card in the mail:
three numbers unchanged
just yours taken off
and the rest pulled together:
1 3 4
like flesh and skin in a facelift
pulling a cover over the hole
to make like you were never there
but I remember the sequence
and know something isn’t right.
I want to re-add you in pen –
that favourite Sharpie marker of yours
permanent like you
and I will not write your name
I will write your real name.
What will they do –
will they not let me claim?

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