At twelve, I wanted to be a paleontologist
digging up bones in the paddocks round here,
easing a scythe of jaw from the creek bank –
not Diprotodon, but horse. Still,
I remember the thrill carrying it home
through that raw suburb, layered now in my mind.
Those strange creatures that evolved there:
Mr F. tuning his finicky engines,
Mrs H. axing the heads off chooks
their beaks still gaping on the bloody stump,
Mr B., a grey floppy hat among bean rows,
Mrs P. parading in her negligee
and beating her son with a hose.
In bed at night I pegged ancient shallow seas,
looking for life stamped in stone,
the dream coins of fossil joy.
And now there’s not enough time,
I want another go –
Digging under this new estate,
a chaconne of grey mortgages,
I would excavate the swamp that was here:
a gift of water where blue cranes
teetered into their westering
and the moon behind them rose from the weeds.
I would sort and classify those sounds:
the dour claxon of the crane,
the crickets and frogs still calling
from the storm drain.
Shall I dig further?
Past the middens of the Kaurna,
proving their earlier claim,
exposing old theft and murder.
Where is my heartland?
What if I dug clear through the earth,
emerging in Skara Brae,
that Orcadian flint in my family?
What if I climbed from the harbour at Kirkwall,
entered that shop with the soundless bell,
stood at the bench where great-grandfather Flett
finesses ships’ chronometers and doesn’t look up?
His clock faces stilled to stone.
Would these people want me back?
Should one lie down with ancestor bone?
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