after Dorothea Lange
The road takes your eye.
Dave stands in front of me
on the loose gravel, his gaze locked
on the bitumen, following the curve
past the last tree to the haze of hills
in the distance. His arm is extended,
ready, prepared to make a supplicating arc
whenever a car approaches.There’s no sign
of a car.There haven’t been any cars
for fifteen minutes and the last one
was going in the wrong direction, back
to Arizona, back towards our abandoned car,
back to the old farm, the sweeping furrows
ploughed right up to the verandah by now,
the vegetable garden and chicken coop gone,
replaced by furrows as far as the eye
can see, as far as a tractor, that bright
new toy of the bank, can make them.
It’s hot.The sun is burning Dave’s neck,
burning up through the leather soles
of his lace-up, pointy-toed white shoes –
his favourite shoes–not the sort of
sensible shoes you’d wear on a country road
in the middle of August 1936.At least
I’m resting, sitting on our suitcase,
my girl asleep on my lap, her hot breath
gluing my dress to my skin. My son squats
beside me, feet bare, cap tilted, his hand
under his chin, musing, supporting his father
who is still gazing down the road in search
of a lift. Dave says there’s supposed to be work
around Bakersfield–grapes, more cotton,
oranges, even some regular jobs at the cannery.
He keeps saying it–there’s work in Bakersfield,
as if simply repeating it will make our luck
change. California. The name used to be as sweet
as sherbet on my tongue, but now it’s a parched
growl stuck in my throat. I smile. For my son’s
sake, for Dave’s, I smile. He’s humming
some tune to himself, the girl’s sound asleep,
my boy’s dragging a stick through the dirt,
making another picture. Nothing to do but wait.
And then go on. No point telling them
what I really think, what I know.
Our luck won’t change.
- 96: NO THEME IXSUBMIT NOW with M Gill and J Thayil 95: EARTHCOMING SOON with M Takolaner 94: BAYTwith Z Hashem Beck 93: PEACHwith L Van, G Mouratidis, L Toong 92: NO THEME VIIIwith C Gaskin 91: MONSTERwith N Curnow 90: AFRO AUSTRALIANwith S Umar 89: DOMESTICwith N Harkin 88: TRANSQUEERwith S Barnes and Q Eades 87: DIFFICULTwith O Schwartz & H Isemonger 86: NO THEME VIIwith L Gorton 85: PHILIPPINESwith Mookie L and S Lua 84: SUBURBIAwith L Brown and N O'Reilly 83: MATHEMATICSwith F Hile 82: LANDwith J Stuart and J Gibian 81: NEW CARIBBEANwith V Lucien 80: NO THEME VIwith J Beveridge 57.1: EKPHRASTICwith C Atherton and P Hetherington 57: CONFESSIONwith K Glastonbury 56: EXPLODE with D Disney 55.1: DALIT / INDIGENOUSwith M Chakraborty and K MacCarter 55: FUTURE MACHINES with Bella Li 54: NO THEME V with F Wright and O Sakr 53.0: THE END with P Brown 52.0: TOIL with C Jenkins 51.1: UMAMI with L Davies and Lifted Brow 51.0: TRANSTASMAN with B Cassidy 50.0: NO THEME IV with J Tranter 49.1: A BRITISH / IRISH with M Hall and S Seita 49.0: OBSOLETE with T Ryan 48.1: CANADA with K MacCarter and S Rhodes 48.0: CONSTRAINT with C Wakeling 47.0: COLLABORATION with L Armand and H Lambert 46.1: MELBOURNE with M Farrell 46.0: NO THEME III with F Plunkett 45.0: SILENCE with J Owen 44.0: GONDWANALAND with D Motion 43.1: PUMPKIN with K MacCarter 43.0: MASQUE with A Vickery 42.0: NO THEME II with G Ryan 41.1: RATBAGGERY with D Hose 41.0: TRANSPACIFIC with J Rowe and M Nardone 40.1: INDONESIA with K MacCarter 40.0: INTERLOCUTOR with L Hart 39.1: GIBBERBIRD with S Gory 39.0: JACKPOT! with S Wagan Watson 38.0: SYDNEY with A Lorange 37.1: NEBRASKA with S Whalen 37.0: NO THEME! with A Wearne 36.0: ELECTRONICA with J Jones