You Kept Up the Swell and Arched it Over

By | 4 May 2016

for Frank

Here’s your daddy’s Valiant. Now you can start growing
up from where you left off. The first baby came and then the second and then the fifth.
When the kids are older, I said, we’ll take them surfing at Jan Juc.
Then you drove one of our girls down the highway to show her
the canola fields when they opened their hands bright yellow.

The photo of you on your bike is still stuck to the fridge –
when you were young, the breeze barely found its way from under
the carport and into your room.
The Australian grass – the heat that prickles,
my dad always drove us to the beach. They were the best days I can remember.

The fringed orange bedspread, the psychedelic lamp,
the vacuumed carpet. I remember the smell of furniture polish
on Saturdays and the photo of my dad when he was young.
He always said he dreamed of living on a farm, I can hear the sweep
of clean silver when the waves start diving in.

I can still see the kid who drowned there.
Everything was sepia in those days – everything got passed down
with a child’s smile. Even the clink of bottles lined up on the edge
of the lawn and your dad’s smoker’s breath kept you inside
his jacket. It always felt like the early mornings

you come home and feel happy nightshift is over.
Dad was always mowing the grass – the lawns were always turning yellow.
We used to take long drives into the country and stop at the river.
I always wanted to be one of those 80’s boys jumping off
the rope. The highway has always been so long –

the street lights are new and it can now take 110. It was one of the kids’ turn
to take a ride. She sat on the hot vinyl seat with her new sunglasses on.
You cruised her down the Western Highway
without the gravel and the dust. I must say it was you
who somehow kept up the swell and arched it over.

When you took out the car last you got stuck
with it behind the pub. Your tone sounded grounded
over the phone – you said, it’s getting dark now
and the men are getting drunk. The tow truck isn’t here;
it’s Friday and I just wanna come home.

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