the thinning

By | 15 February 2023
that day my dad
does not have rope.
that day we try and
do it with a hose.

rubber lasso
stretched thin
as three bodies.
borderline. net.

that day we
walk the hose
across the field.

the herd, yellow grass
slogging in slack jaws.
mean sun, regurgitated
egg. cockies watching.

dad out far as line
of hakeas. shadow
of man. mum’s ham
in the sandwich.

i’m first baseman.
each step, door slam,
crunching limbs.

that day, billy goat’s
staring, got air in his
belly. hair pricks is
filthy erections. herd

backs behind him.
teeth, bad westerns.
gums dribbling. all
eyes swimming.

kid cowering
in cage of
nanny’s limbs.

air thick. dad’s barking
instructions. cockies
spewing from ghost
gums. leaves hurling.

billy’s kicking earth,
nostrils flaring. throat
open, no screaming.
no one’s taking his

woman. nanny’s
licking shit
from kid’s bum.

that day my dad
charges forward.
yanks nozzle. ‘keep
it taut,’ he’s gulping.

mum hissing, holds
back. holds line. left
leg, oesophagus. drags
wake. breathless.

‘fucking hell
jane! can’t ya
fucking keep up?!’

then. mad dash
is mallee of limbs.
dislocating wings.
dust jumps. necks spin.

sick bleating. tongues,
birds flailing. ears
ringing. sun softening.
throat’s thinning.

billy goat coming
at me. like a dad with
a belt or a baseball.

that day billy
fakes a lefty. goes
right past me. dad
sees an opening.

‘go balls and all!’
screams dad,
yanking hose
like throat.

we’ve got the
nanny on the ropes.
eyes discharging.

but my mum’s down
for the count. the
line is fractured. the
hose, a broken lip.

the nanny’s got
a slip. she’s taken
it. muscle thick as
porcelain, always

covered in shit. then kid
tottles over, oblivious.
gives me a little lick.

that day i shoo that kid
away. my dad there trying
to tie a hose into a lasso.
a neck. a nucleic noose.

‘you two are fucking useless,’
he says, fixing a knot crook
as gut. spaghetti spew cowboy.
‘you some sorta poofta son?’

mum on ground, hissing,
heaving, grieving with
laughter. stops sudden.

‘you’re a mean old thing,
don,’ says mum, in an act
braver than any man. yet
there’ll be no trophies, no

cover stories, just eulogies.
she helps herself up with my
hand. and dusts herself off,
never reaching for guns.

just stands there staring
with the grace of a bird
that’ll never take flight.

‘son,’ says dad, dropping the
knot that’s a hose, sweeping
his arm out as if for a moment
he’s holding open the cage. this

world an exponential baseball
that never comes home. and footy
two men spilling into love. and the
guns corroded are lowered. the

dust almost settled. the billy off
gnawing on grass. then. his smile
thickens. ‘be a man—get that goat.’

and i can’t explain it. it’s a
metabolism. it’s that urge to
shove things into my body.
that need to gag because i

deserve to be empty. a danoz
direct ad where i buy the lie of
hard abs because every day is a
lie, from birth to inception, that

thins and thickens. a toilet bowl
clogging. a bruise on a throat.
a hose that we use like a rope.

so i go like greg inglis 1. like
duke on the frontier. like a
baseball with the velocity
of a machine gun. i’m

flying. goddamn rambo.
topgun. that guy making
a woman choke on her own
vomit while he throat fucks

her on the internet. i did not have
sexual relations
… a nuclear code.
a hard-on with a mind of its own.

before. we take photos.
the kid thin legs thin face.
lured by carrot tops and
outstretched hands.

snap a few shots then
dad locks them up.
big corroded bird cage.
safe from night fox.

mum calls this happy
families. her photo-op
crouch, birdsong teeth.

‘what about snakes?’
i say, going balls
deep in fireweed
and feeling frigid.

‘the only snake here,’
says dad, grinning,
‘is the one in me

mum leans close.
whispers, ‘it’s more
like a centipede.’

before. i follow dad.
headed for field. our old
overgrown diamond. first
pitches, first swings of the

howdy peasants. if only
duke could see my dad.
out on the range in his
finest camo pyjamas.

old man always said,
‘i need wide open
spaces to thrive.’

‘we’ll never do it
with that,’ says mum
waiting at gate, hands wed.
‘don’t you have rope?’

‘what would you
know, jane?’ says
dad, giving me the
tap. ‘you’re a woman.’

mum looks at me,
at dirt. silent. scream
of gate is split womb.

before. dad says,
‘the kid is easy.
but the mum, she’s
bloody feral.’

he looks through
shed, capillary of
bird cages. comes
up empty.

in eggshell house
mum once said,
‘keeping birds is evil’

mum peels yellow
gloves from fingers.
holds limp like birds
with broken necks.

‘tim,’ mum says, ‘are
you alright? there’s
sick round the sink. did
you throw up last night?

‘no,’ i say. swallow back
battery. ‘i’m fine… what are
those marks on your neck?

before. after breakfast.
dad’s eyes out window.
counting magpie’s
stock exchange.

‘you know,’ he says,
‘this’ll all be yours
one day. when i’m
gone, you’ll be rich.’

eyes thicken. ‘reckon
you’ll miss your dear
old dad? i know i did.’

‘if we don’t get
the nanny for her
milk,’ says mum,
thumbs thick with suds,

‘foxes will eat that kid
alive.’ steam rising. scour
her silver pistol. in control,
like a season washed out.

‘it’s only right.
we’ve got to convince
your father to help him.’

before. last night. get away,
host catriona rowntree, the
entrée. screaming’s friday
night footy. mum’s allowed

leave, but i’m expected to stay.
dad tells me how good his father
was at nrl. robbed of a legacy.
all cause of money. couldn’t make

trip across city. but i know better:
this ten-gallon western! gramps.
the myopic visage of heaven.

outside, looking up at stars,
those watery diamonds.
like the one where a dad
threw a baseball, his tender

uppercut. because i’d seen
field of dreams like dad could
recite every line from true grit.
and me being his favourite, dad

bought me a glove. ran four hoses
across a field. so every arvo was
breathless, leather beaks clapping.

before. don’t want to look
back. suck on plastic throat
outback. hand thickens, choking
life from smoke. not nightingale’s

song. but gurgle, eagle’s snoring.
hot bubble. did you know teeth can
sail like baseballs, land in the hands
of sons? forget origin? these teeth

being gold from the bellies of caves.
and then the bellies sit dormant.
waiting. years sometimes.

the only real truth is a throat.
how it opens. how it closes.
examine the fabric of a body.
a liquid fist refracted. teach

it. learn it up. built like a brick
shithouse. a fair go mate so
sick with faith he’s tactically
chucking. see this belly, it thins

like wings but swings like gramp’s
thick fists. ending an nrl career.
gran told me: shipped him off navy.

it’s porcelain’s reprieve, wisdom’s false
exit. when the gurgling scream. the hose
between mum and me. her jumping behind
bedroom door. dad’s arvo vulture lurk.

eggshells shattered on the floor. please
, never quite wingless. i’m cramming
fingers into the feathers. multicoloured
grated gag hole. porcelain thick lips. still.

memory of mother’s spaghetti. but it’s me
clogging like ten generations of shit. hear
them. knowing, what that man is doing.

1 In 2009 Greg Inglis, Captain of the South Sydney Rabbitos, was charged with assaulting his now wife, Sally Robinson.
By 2015, Inglis was the front page of Courier-Mail, standing bold as apple pie under the headline ‘RESPECT’.

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