The Cuan

By | 1 July 1997

My grandfather’s father was born on the Cuan
My mother tells me as we drive

On the road from Merriwa to Scone
On the road thirty-five years ago

She rode to see my father
She rode a motorcycle then, an NSU

Down the dry creek beds and into his anger
Down the road from Scone to Merriwa

I imagine her at sixteen in the bush
I see from the car window

Following behind her older brother and his gun
Following the idea of rabbits behind every tree

And by eighteen she still had never shot one
And by five in the evening neither of them had

So Brian said “You’ll have to hit one with the car
So we’ve got something to take home for Tinny

For dinner”
For goodness sake she thought as she steered

Into the small streaking form, blinking
Into the late afternoon light burying itself

In many places
In the trees, the paddocks, the soft range

The animal thudded but wasn’t dead, shot into
The paddock with the boy in hot pursuit

While she sat in the car
While her hands sweated on the wheel she heard

Screaming filling its purple noise into the countryside
Screaming? No it stretched higher than that

It was her sitting in time made remarkable, she realised
It was the hare squealing

Somewhere she couldn’t see

An insane, imitating and forceless sound
An old sound, but bright and clear refusing

To turn
To live . . . or die

He came back to the car with it
He said “Took a fair whacking”

And she saw blood on his chin
And on the butt of the gun, with hair, she saw

Bits of hare on his chest and
Bits on the back of his hand

They drove and
They drove without talking

Past the Chinaman’s farm
Past Colonel Bath’s house where she’d gone one

Day for work experience, but she can’t to this
Day remember what she’d done there because

The boys had teased and teased her
The whole week before she’d had to go

Colonel Bath, they said, will give you orders
Colonel Bath will order you to give him a bath, she has

No idea, she says, shaking her head, and I have
No idea, really, what the Cuan is even

When I see a sign that says “Cuan”
When my mother sees it she points

“Pop’s father was born on the Cuan and
Pop’s father’s father, when he was sick

With cancer, went back to the bush and shot himself”
(With the quick thinking of ninety-two years …)

My mother is in the back seat with
My baby who has laughed herself to sleep

In the motel room, in the pub
In the church and in the Chinese Restaurant

And on this weekend away for a memorial service for her mother
And father, my mother talks to the old people and

At fifty-six looks beautiful and
At the church wears a beautiful blue-green dress

And on this weekend away my mother cries
And pays for everything

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