western sydney fugue

By | 1 February 2022

3. blacktown

outside a fuel station down the road from
blacktown boys’ high
young men gather like exiled gods, slouching,
reedy, scraggly facial hair several degrees
thinner than proper beards. mr mahfouz, he’s cool, he’s cool.
mr noorani sucks, though. the tinny, metallic light
from the petrol pump that illuminates their shadowed faces
is as pale as forgottenness. they vape, breathing steam
out into the darkness & back in again, lungs burning, skins hot
& blood sluggish as they talk of
white girls, black girls, brown girls,
girls, girls, girls. none of them mention how shy & hapless
they become in front of real women, how angry, how incomplete.
yet it takes courage of a sort
to come out here night after night
in search of purpose, flakes of ice shifting & slicing beneath
their skins, baggy jeans & deep pockets filled with
grimy loose change, wrinkled cigarettes
& folded knives. part-time shifts
at the movers’ & the cleaners’
have them aching & stretching, yawning, sweaty,
eyes half-slitted against the sun
when it comes. they return
to quiet, crumbling houses & piles of half-ignored homework
& younger sisters & brothers who need breakfast. they return to the wheel
that grinds itself into their backs, shattering their spines,
their wills, one millimetre at a time.
but before that—before that—they are free
in the small hours between night & morning,
dull-eyed yet iridescent as
goldfinches at dawn.

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