Addressed to Robert Lowell
The night attendant at the service station, garishly lit
when I had thought the world extinguished,
pumps $10 of fuel into our tank.
My plastic moneybox looks childish in the car’s backseat,
but the silver coins that spill from its plughole
perform an unexpected magic.
My mother has nothing, and I see how much it matters.
She parks the Toyota on the side of the highway beneath some gums,
their white trunks streaked by the comets of passing cars.
My sister and I have my favourite blanket, gilded with synthetic stars.
At break of day we enter the police station in our dressing gowns.
Two faceless men escort us home
where gravity has finally pulled everything down.
On the carpet are light fittings; the vacant box of the TV;
the roots of plants forced from hiding;
drawers and their contents (folded maps, loosened photographs);
volumes of an encyclopaedia, their hardbacks torn off.
A more comprehensive list is not necessary.
In truth, my room is not as damaged as I want it to be.
My sister’s has been carefully destroyed.
My father is discovered in his bed, eccentric and confused
as one of your old-timers.
But the police know to stay, while my mother picks through the debris
for a bankbook and some clothes, and then
the men in blue lead us away.
There is a brick house with bars on every window.
A room stuffed with bunks and a cumbersome wardrobe.
At the kitchen table, women stub ashen cigarette after cigarette
into a tin ashtray, battered as the moon,
playing show-and-tell with scars, picking over the ruins.
My sister has faith in another miracle of creation.
But I am a child, not a visionary, and I see our mother
has already surrendered to the diabolical romance of return.
My father, cleanly shaven, stands at the door.
Inside, the furious pull of the earth has gentled again,
allowing the furniture—what was left of it—to right itself.
The place looks enough like our home
and our father’s naked face enough like contrition.
We restore our toothbrushes to the bathroom shelf
where our father’s glistening razor sits.
- 96: NO THEME IXSUBMIT NOW with M Gill and J Thayil 95: EARTHCOMING SOON with M Takolaner 94: BAYTwith Z Hashem Beck 93: PEACHwith L Van, G Mouratidis, L Toong 92: NO THEME VIIIwith C Gaskin 91: MONSTERwith N Curnow 90: AFRO AUSTRALIANwith S Umar 89: DOMESTICwith N Harkin 88: TRANSQUEERwith S Barnes and Q Eades 87: DIFFICULTwith O Schwartz & H Isemonger 86: NO THEME VIIwith L Gorton 85: PHILIPPINESwith Mookie L and S Lua 84: SUBURBIAwith L Brown and N O'Reilly 83: MATHEMATICSwith F Hile 82: LANDwith J Stuart and J Gibian 81: NEW CARIBBEANwith V Lucien 80: NO THEME VIwith J Beveridge 57.1: EKPHRASTICwith C Atherton and P Hetherington 57: CONFESSIONwith K Glastonbury 56: EXPLODE with D Disney 55.1: DALIT / INDIGENOUSwith M Chakraborty and K MacCarter 55: FUTURE MACHINES with Bella Li 54: NO THEME V with F Wright and O Sakr 53.0: THE END with P Brown 52.0: TOIL with C Jenkins 51.1: UMAMI with L Davies and Lifted Brow 51.0: TRANSTASMAN with B Cassidy 50.0: NO THEME IV with J Tranter 49.1: A BRITISH / IRISH with M Hall and S Seita 49.0: OBSOLETE with T Ryan 48.1: CANADA with K MacCarter and S Rhodes 48.0: CONSTRAINT with C Wakeling 47.0: COLLABORATION with L Armand and H Lambert 46.1: MELBOURNE with M Farrell 46.0: NO THEME III with F Plunkett 45.0: SILENCE with J Owen 44.0: GONDWANALAND with D Motion 43.1: PUMPKIN with K MacCarter 43.0: MASQUE with A Vickery 42.0: NO THEME II with G Ryan 41.1: RATBAGGERY with D Hose 41.0: TRANSPACIFIC with J Rowe and M Nardone 40.1: INDONESIA with K MacCarter 40.0: INTERLOCUTOR with L Hart 39.1: GIBBERBIRD with S Gory 39.0: JACKPOT! with S Wagan Watson 38.0: SYDNEY with A Lorange 37.1: NEBRASKA with S Whalen 37.0: NO THEME! with A Wearne 36.0: ELECTRONICA with J Jones