Postcard to a Sibling

By | 1 May 2014

‘my love letter to the planet’, Sebastião Salgado,
Genesis, Natural History Museum, 2013.

I perused the shimmering images of Salgado,
chiaroscuro palettes of black and white:
penguins cormorants whales sea lions,
volcanoes the Antarctic glaciers of Alaska…
afterwards, I chose a postcard of African elephants —
then back home in Australia
I leant it against the photo of my father
and the carved elephants he brought back from war.

I recalled the house of childhood the sounds,
back-drop of war — his portrait on the dresser,
khaki uniform how the light stroked his brow,
chink of teeth his smile,
the row of elephants alongside and, on Sundays:
silver cutlery on crisp white damask,
the meagre roast,
grown-ups’ stories of the black-out, ration books,
nurses and hospitals, underground shelters, the blitz,
the silences.

in winter, we scattered toast crumbs on snow,
then indoors, beneath a table, its folds of dark cloth,
we looked through the cold glass of French doors:
sparrows blackbirds specked the whiteness —
the room droned with the voice of BBC news.

today I will buy a stamp for the postcard,
write nothing but my name —
she will remember.

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