The Distance and the Heat

By | 2 February 2001

The river’s dried up, just the hard sheen
of mud and the cracks like lizard skin
to tell where water once had pooled

and the smell that rises with the day,
the rotting on the bank, the release
of flies and heat a prelude to the bones.

The sky’s a high enamel blue ballooning
from the fixed horizon, the expectation
of morning cloud painted out by noon.

A yard of rusted things — the clapped out
engine block, the plough with broken teeth,
forty-four gallon drums, a water tank,

the low ramshackle of the chicken run,
two black-eyed tractor tyres, children’s toys,
twists of wire — the residue of better times.

There’s no thought of mending the boundary fence,
no talk of breaking drought, no plans
beyond waiting through the afternoon.

And no relief at night, just dark. The stars
are razor cuts in a tight-stretched cobalt sky:
in bed between us the distance and the heat.

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