The slow clock

By | 16 August 2019

In a gully we found it: hash of fallen trunks
like the ribs of some great beast. But
we were too old for it, too big to squeeze within
and too prissy, afraid of the doings of ants
and unknown others, intricate civilisations
and workings of rot, the dried bark half-way back
to dirt, and some maze, some great working
beneath the surface.

Up on Bald Hill, the grey shrubs grew knee-high,
slanted to the salt wind, flowered sometimes
purple like dusk, ochre like sand,
testament to endless endurance, endurance
without goal, without hope.
By night, if you left the track and sat,
shrub-high, you could simply be

The dull-scaled goanna,
shrunken in its hide as if the flesh
had perished since some past
moist plenitude,
moved in stop-motion, cranking
the cogs of its shoulders. We hung the rubbish
out of reach, beat spades on the ground,
while it licked the air like a slow clock.
Did it leave, whale swimming the dust,
for fear of us, or on its own prerogative?

Everything was wrong with me,
the purple welts where the unsought
woman-body erupted, faster than the skin could stretch,
the fat like off-casts of food.
It was wrong with her too and
I made a model of her fat rolls in the sand
for her to find. She tore apart my B-shaped pen,
threw the plastic in the dirt to warp and fade.
In the tent she rolled on me, savage even
when she’d left her body in sleep, pressed my face
in the stinking mildewed cloth, her on top of me
and her bedding on top of us both.

Each day the sun came up in the tent fly.
A sheet of light on the estuary,
flies rising from the trees like steam.
Each day the lighting of the stove,
one flame for each family.

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