linked

There’s no better way to say thank you than to tell someone they owe you something.

Because I had never had Toblerone, some things just get past you.

 

Sitting at a friend’s place in our early twenties, recalling the old times,

I never thought to tell you how I felt because I was so sure I knew what you’d say.

 

The birds still sounded happy and I muttered for them to fuck off

since the smoke in my lungs didn’t make me feel better.

 

Half wishing I had a visible scar

I was realising our minds forever work in reverse.

 

I am sure that life is always time spent wrong

and I’ve been right before

but not as often as I’ve been scared

 

on a beach path, riding my bike.

A little girl totters across and my brakes fail,

I had never desired so much to be somewhere else

 

Lying in bed after watching a great film,

listening to good music,

my frustrating youth allows me only to think of a girl.

 

Sipping my coffee in the morning and thinking it’s mediocre

before a bullet blasts through my office window

and into my chest, and there is a sinking feeling

but also a sense that my inner struggles are draining away.

 

I have questions about myself that no one else can answer

so most of the time I end up asking;

does my skin feel the same on theirs as theirs does on mine?

 

The Lizard

Once, there was lizard. He was cold, a little dark, and slightly empty inside. Not evil, in fact he was kind of heart, but perhaps somewhat lost and lonely. He was lacking motivation, or at least he was lacking positive motivation. All his tasks he completed without a clear sense of why he was doing these things. He knew there was something missing. The world confused him and he did not know his place in it. How could he meet others that were so different to him? It was hard to comprehend. So many lizards exactly like him, and yet they were not. Nor he like them. They looked the same and they spoke the same but their minds were foreign.

A man in a suit whose sole defining feature was arrogance. I am not a violent person. I am kind, so why am I looking at you with dead eyes, hoping for your blood to be spilled? How do you see the world? How do you view those around you, if you acknowledge them at all? When the day arrives and you understand your grandeur is a mirage, my lips will move skyward.

One day, he met the sun. And it was light and it was warmth, it was everything the lizard had been looking for. The sun was joy, it filled the gaps within the lizard, filled the holes with a positivity the lizard had not felt before. He had more energy now. To the skies for all to hear he proclaimed that the benevolence of the sun could not be emphasized enough. It was brilliance and it was heat and it was illumination. The sun showed him that others could be just as good but different, and he was glad to have realized it.

He’d never seen a smile that looked so alive, and he’d only said something stupid. A smile you wished could linger longer, before you tried to raise it once more. It was nice to take time out from thinking of all the people in the world and discover only one. To wonder and learn about just one, instead of the infinite curiosity that had plagued him before. One proved to be fuller, more complicated and intriguing than many. He started to see complexity was not something he had known within himself. He was linear, they were made up of tendrils.

The sun could not always be there however. There were times when the lizard’s world would be dark again and he understood this. With the promise that the sun would return he could negotiate the quiet moments alone without losing vitality. But sometimes the absences of the sun stretched out for too long and the lizard couldn’t help but become slow, stagnant, and muddled.

Back to day-dreaming of Valhalla and red paintings on the wall. Back to examining profundity in the smallest of things. While it fascinated him it did not sustain him. Watching life taught him much, the most of which was that he wasn’t living it. So he slept as little as possible, believing quantity would catch up to quality eventually.

The lizard did not like it when the sun was distant. For him, the sun was life and the dark was not. If he spent too long in the dark and the cold, he was afraid he would fade beyond revival. He was convinced the strange things he thought about on his own were not the right things to contemplate so he chased the sun, for it was always shining somewhere. To bring it closer and move himself closer became a focus of his endeavours.

When they were near, when they touched, he was sure that moment would hold. Were his eyes saying what he wanted them to? He did not like speaking but was always told it was necessary, so now he spoke too much.

Every now and then the lizard would come across other pockets of light and warmth. They were not the sun and he was confused they held the same qualities as the sun but in smaller doses. They promised the same cures it seemed but they were not the sun and he always pushed on.

Again, he looked upon other interesting faces. Again, started musing of when their stories began but quickly lost his grip on attention when he asked, when they started telling him. He was thinking, you are human. You are wonderful. You are alien to me.

Sometimes he saw others who were totally devoid of light. They were struggling beyond what he had the capacity to imagine. He wanted to help them did not have anything to offer them. Moving within the confines of their pain seemed dangerous considering his own fragility.

Of course, each time the lizard found the sun, the sun was busy and the lizard knew this. Still, he hoped to prove a distraction, make the sun glow more brightly on him so he could grow to be something more than he was.

Locking the essence of himself away to remain accessible. Talking too much, always talking too much. Not smiling, not looking enough. There was a soul in him. There was a soul in her. How could they meet? What circumstances would bridge such a divide, when both were guarded by the head?

Eventually the sun had to intervene, telling the lizard “I cannot shine only on you, there are other things I must do. I cannot ignore my own heart’s warning.”

So the lizard was left floating in the dark wondering what he could possibly do. Was it the end of days? Was it not possible to be sunny all the time? Surely it was, if it was possible to be dark all the time?

He planned all the things they would do; the words he would say. Maybe he thought about the future too much and did not focus now? Could he have spent too little time in reality as he grew. Was his life permanently askew? He knew what he wanted but did not know how to get it. So he said he did not know, to those who asked.

Could it be that there was more than one sun in the world? He was convinced not but then he pondered those other lights. Perhaps they were suns that had not evolved yet. He was certain he did not feel comfortable with them, not like he had with the sun but if the sun was truly disconnected from him, what choice did he have but to source his survival elsewhere?

He had never bothered to search for the sun before so when he decided to he thought he’d found it the first time. He should have known you can’t be that lucky.

Acknowledging such a point was easier than accepting it but he would try.

Moving towards what society wanted felt like swimming against the flow. He did not want to be that man in the suit. He wanted to be organic and more and more it was becoming impossible to avoid being constructed and driven for someone else’s purpose.

Coastal (Full + Extended Version)

When he exhaled a deeper breath and a streetlight was near, he saw steam rise up from his mouth and disappear. For some reason he was always afraid he’d lose more than carbon dioxide, like perhaps his soul might fade away into the ether too.

Every now and then a piece of gravel would grind under his wheel and he would grimace. The tyres were always vulnerable, and him with them. He was out for a midnight ride. Black socks, black shorts, black shirt, black helmet; a sentient shadow. The bike path snaked the coastline, blurred like an analog TV picture in the moonlight. He felt like an animal on a track, nose down, about important business; quiet things no one else would ever know. All he could hear were his tyres rotating, his nostrils circulating air, and the sea pounding in his right ear. There was comfort in the fact no one on earth knew where he was in that moment. At his apartment a phone and wallet lay deserted on the kitchen table. His company was his own. His silent company.

Houses stood silent in rows on his left. In one of them there was a baby, he often heard it crying. Sometimes he stopped to listen, just to see if the parents would comfort it back to sleep. They always did eventually. Why he stopped he didn’t quite know but he felt something every time he looked towards the sound of wailing. Longing and regret seemed to swell in him, confusing his thoughts because he didn’t understand why he would react this way. The baby wasn’t crying this time and he didn’t stop. In all the houses bodies rested asleep or awake, it didn’t matter. None of them knew he’d passed by, beating out a cadence on the pedals, flying like a guided spirit to his destination.

One thing bothered him though. There was a dog, a Labrador as far as he could tell. It never came from the same direction but it always settled in behind his back wheel and came chasing after him, not barking or growling but loping along behind like a companion, as if it knew him. If he ever slowed enough for it to catch him he wasn’t sure what would happen, and he never entertained the notion. However, it upset his rhythm, made him feel hurried as he inevitably pedalled faster to lose it. Until the next time.

 

Tendrils rose off his shoulders to dissipate as he arrived at the rock pool nestled on the beach. He unclipped his helmet and started down the hill, treading the steps carefully in the dark. Halfway down he heard voices and looked up. Disappointment creased his brow as he saw two people sitting on the edge of the pool. Girls by the sound of it and as he looked closer he realised they were naked, or at least topless. They had their backs to him so he decided he’d quickly return the way he came and ride on to the next beach. Angry that anyone but him should be out there at such a time he tramped too heavily and dislodged a stone which rolled down the remaining distance of the stairs. One of the girls, in fact women around his age he noticed when they turned, spied him begin to walk away and called out.

‘Hey, you don’t have to leave.’

Holding his helmet by his side he ran his fingers through tousled hair. Although he was tempted to join them now he’d seen their profiles, he shrugged and shook his head.

‘I kind of came here to be alone.’

The same one spoke again, she had sandy dreadlocks. The other had darker hair, perhaps dyed blue. Their mannerisms didn’t strike him as being typical skinny dippers, whatever that was.

‘You’d rather be alone than share a pool with two nude girls?’

He raised his eyebrows. ‘I’m really not sure how to answer that question.

The other woman piped up. If he was being honest with himself she was stunning, the bones in her face had all cooperated, but it wasn’t what he came for.

‘Hey I think I recognise you, do you remember me?’

Now he’d heard her voice and taken a step or two closer yes he did. They’d had classes together a couple of times. He remembered a few occasions he’d not been able to stop himself admiring her.

‘Yeah I remember you.’ He also recalled she was about twenty-five, which changed his whole perspective of the situation. Mid-twenties skinny dippers were infinitely more interesting than teens. It spoke of breaking the mould, resisting the world view about what growing up meant. He’d never understood why maturity was a word that simply had to replace fun and adventure, frown upon them, and wipe them away like dusters on chalkboards. All the same, neither did he know how to let go of the pressure they had obviously chosen to release in their own lives.

‘Well come down, let’s talk.’

 

He was finding it hard to make an excuse now. They obviously didn’t care if he saw them; and it wouldn’t hurt if the other thing had to wait.

If they were comfortable than why shouldn’t he be? But for him, the intimacy of looking upon someone’s body should be kept private and exclusive. He joined them anyway. They were indeed naked. And they were beautiful. Why were they doing this to him? He felt like a predator if he looked at them and a prude if he stared away. He must have looked like he was tripping; his eyes were playing tennis in his skull. Had it become such a precondition that he couldn’t look at them without his gaze turning objective? Even focusing on their faces was distracting. The girl he knew, Blue, had a drop of water running arrow-straight down her proud nose to fall onto full lips that smiled too easily.

Dreadlocks, whose eyes gleamed with both mischief and kindness even in the dim light, smirked a little.

‘We were about to go for a swim, want to join us?’

‘Okay’. But he made no move.

‘Are you going to take your clothes off?’

He was taken aback. ‘No.’

‘Why not? You’ve seen us, it’s hardly fair.’

‘It’s entirely fair, you made your choice. You invited me down here. I don’t feel comfortable revealing myself to people I don’t know.’

‘It’s just a body, it has nothing to do with who you are’, said Blue.     ‘Except it’s my body and it’s completely a part of who I am. It affects me in so many ways. I have no relationship with you, this sort of closeness and familiarity makes me uncomfortable.’

‘If you say so, but if you ask me, there is nothing individual about a body, everyone knows what’s there.

‘I’m not so at ease with sharing everything.’

‘I suppose we have a fundamental difference then.’

‘I guess we do.’

Dreadlocks slid into the water. ‘Swim?’

He took his shirt off as Blue also submerged. She came up, hair slick, her face emanating a natural glow.

‘Halfway there,’ she grinned.

He laughed but shook his head. He jumped in and felt a lot better now he could only see a small portion of them. What they didn’t understand was he’d already forgotten what they looked like under the water, despite his initial evaluation. Immediately they became ten times more attractive again. He turned his head to look out to the open sea, wondering in bemusement what the fuck was going on right now, and would it mean anything in the long run?

‘So you don’t mind showing your nipples but it’s weird for us?’ Dreadlocks asked, bringing his attention back.

He just twitched his mouth and conceded the point.

‘Do you do this often?’ He asked.

‘When the mood takes us,’ answered Blue.

He nodded. ‘I like that, do what’s fun, do what you feel like doing. Too many people forget that.’

‘Most people would say it’s part of growing up.’

‘Yeah, but what does that mean?’

‘Who knows?’ said Dreadlocks as she duck-dived, her legs driving him to distraction as they disappeared. She came back up and continued. ‘Maybe it just means what everyone tells you it means. Maybe it only means physical change. Getting taller, fatter, skinnier, older, until you fall down, like trees. You’re probably entitled to make up your own mind about it.’

In a slight trance as he considered her words, he murmured; ‘That’s the problem, I don’t think I can.’

Blue floated away on her back.

‘So you do this all the time then?’

‘I don’t generally get naked and swim in the middle of the night, no. But I ride the track a lot. It’s like I’m the only one awake.’

‘Ahh so we ruined it for you.’

‘There’s pros and cons for everything.’

Dreadlocks was doing slow languid laps. ‘Is this illegal?’

‘You could always claim sexual harassment if they arrested you like that.’

‘But, for real?’

‘Well it’s a public pool, and you’re nude so yeah, you’re probably breaking the law.’

‘Ooh that makes it more exciting,’ grinned Blue.

He turned to look back up the hill, checking on his bike despite rationality telling him it was ridiculous to think someone would come along and steal it. He just made it out, a slight sheen on the handle bar aiding him. Standing next to it was the Labrador, seemingly monolithic as it gazed down.

‘Jesus,’ he whispered, unnerved.

‘What’s wrong?’

‘You see that dog up there, it never leaves me alone.’

‘What dog?’ asked Blue.

‘Right there by my bike.’

Dreadlocks cast a worried glance at her friend. ‘Dude, there isn’t a dog there.’

‘What do you mean it’s right th-’ but he looked again and there was nothing. ‘Oh it’s gone; you must have just missed it in the dark.’

‘I think someone has been awake too long,’ teased Blue.

‘It was there! It’s always there! Following me every night.’

‘Okay okay, it must have learnt to recognise you.’

‘Every night’, he repeated softly to himself.

The girls had moved closer together and further away from him, trying not to make it obvious. One change in the tone of his voice and they immediately perceived him as a threat. He could see in their eyes they no longer assumed he wouldn’t hurt them. Quicker than he could click his fingers he’d been made to feel like had to go out of his way to assure them he wasn’t a predator. It was one of the things he hated about the world, hated the people who did have violence within them. He couldn’t say where, he didn’t know where it sprang from. There was a lot he didn’t know.

He didn’t even want to be there.

‘Maybe I should go,’ he said.

 

They didn’t argue, the fun had left their faces. As they all ceased moving the water stilled too, like it knew to dance would be inappropriate. The girls looked younger in their doubt but he was more intimidated by them now than ever, he could feel the milling in their heads as they wished for him to leave. It was all he could do, so he did.

He gave them a sad half smile. ‘It was nice talking to you.’ He turned and lifted himself out of the pool to stand, water rushing off him but the sound of it hitting the ground was too loud so he started walking immediately. Surprisingly, Blue called out, ‘Hey, what’s your name? I forgot.’ He looked back, brow narrowed in puzzlement. ‘What does it matter? It’s the least important thing to know about someone.’

‘But it’s your name’, returned Dreadlocks, ‘You carry it your entire life, it’s part of what defines you, eventually it encompasses your experiences. People who know you see memories when they hear your name.’

He shook his head. ‘It’s a label like any other. It’s doesn’t say where I’ve been, where I’m going. It doesn’t tell you what’s inside of me right now.’

The extra distance had opened them back up, and they seemed interested in him again.

‘What’s inside of you?’ asked Blue.

His mind was made up now though. ‘I’m not sure. That’s why I have to go. I need to find out.’

He commenced his track up the hill again, hurrying to his bike. He clipped his helmet and was quickly on the seat, pedalling once again. With little resistance he moved through the comfortable night air. A voice followed, one of the girls’, asking him to wait but it was too late.

 

The next sea pool along the coast waited in mournful silence as he arrived. A children’s playground on the headland above was nothing but geometric shadows. It held no meaning without the bodies to traverse it. Settled in the calm night, the water of the pool looked bottomless. Normally when he rode he would have music in his ears and everything would take on some kind of significance. The music would show him that all the things he saw were important somehow; there was purpose to them, dignity contained in them, emotion to found amongst them. Without it, the view appeared lifeless and impersonal, like the heart of the land had gone away.

As before, he set his bike down and took the steps to the pool’s edge. Shirt off and tossed aside he sat down to put his feet in. Looking hard, he tried to make out the bottom but he couldn’t, just another unknown. For a long time, he did nothing except stare into the water, trying to process his thoughts. He was confused about a lot of things and no matter how hard he contemplated, no matter how long he stayed unmoving his feelings would not be simplified. If he was being honest, he knew it would come to this all along. For a brief moment he thought the girls might change his path, but ultimately the presence inside was too strong. It was time to see what the future held. Nudging himself forward he slipped into the water, exhaling the air from his lungs as he did so.

 

Mostly he was hoping the first sign of struggle from his body would convince him to resurface.

For the entirety of his formative years he had been trying to figure out if the world had a place for him, or if he wanted one. At times he felt so alive it was like he was a part of the earth, occasionally he felt like he came close to understanding it all, the minds of the trees, the spirits of the animals. Other times, he just felt all the sadness in the world crush down on him. The helplessness and hopelessness of millions of people in every corner seemed pointlessly cruel. And sometimes he simply felt lonely, even amidst a warm embrace.

Knowing what could be ahead of him if he found a way to get back up to the air, he was surprised when he didn’t start climbing. Instead he started to feel peaceful. Oxygen was in high demand but all he could think about was how quiet it was, how still, and how simple things had finally become. There was nothing here to hurt, and nothing to be hurt. He guessed it was like the time before birth, when everything was out of his control. A time of ultimate quiet and peace. It seemed somewhat of a solution. Suspended there, eyes closed, he could have been in space.

Just as he was ready to let go, a thought nagged at him. He wasn’t in space or the womb or any other place of isolation. He was drowning to death in an ocean pool, and in death he wouldn’t be blissfully alone either. He’d be another number without the ability to do anything. He could help no one, like the millions of helpless souls he’d be joining. Alive, he could at least have the chance to change. Perspective is one thing that can always be altered.

Up there somewhere were people who hadn’t been born yet that could be his family, up there were places of natural beauty that he could visit, up there were songs he could hear, stories he could read and watch, food he could taste, textures he could feel.

He forced his eyes open but was struggling to make his arms and legs move. Starving desperately for air, he had no idea how long he’d been under. No, everything was hurting. The pain in his chest was excruciating, he couldn’t think straight, his brain was bursting trying to make him breathe in, but that would be the end. No, no, just like most other choices he’d made this one was a mistake but he couldn’t fight it off now. He let the real darkness come just as commotion roiled the water above him.

 

He woke up coughing violently, water coming out of his mouth. He could feel grass under his back and unintelligible voices talking to him. Collapsing his head back to the ground he slowly allowed his vision to clear as his chest heaved. There was a light, from a phone or a torch, moving around. Soon, he could see Dreadlocks and Blue knelt either side of him, concerned. Something was still keeping him from interpreting them properly and he noticed another figure. Next to Dreadlocks stood a black Labrador. This time though it didn’t scare him, he didn’t want to run away. He lifted his hand, noting the animal’s kind eyes, and the dog bent and gave it a lick. Then it turned and wandered off, perhaps back home.

 

He finally managed to focus his gaze on Dreadlocks and Blue and smiled self-consciously. A boy embarrassed in the company of beautiful women.

Sombre

I see the sadness in people’s eyes

even when it’s not there yet.

I know how their story might end.

Chances are there’s a divorce or cancer in store for them,

and they won’t be able to fix it.

 

And I look around and realise

it doesn’t matter if you’re the kindest person

on earth or the worst.

Fate pays no heed to that.

 

And I don’t read the papers much

but I see the headlines on the net

and all I see are ages close to mine

and they’re never gonna rise

and it gets me down sometimes.

 

And all the animals that walk across the land

get snuffed out quicker than you can say ‘deserve’

and they never get a chance to say goodbye to anyone or anything.

We don’t know what they leave behind

when they disappear.

We don’t know their minds, we don’t know their families.

 

And this is all the inside of me.

The outside is the opposite and I give it to you

because I don’t want you to

feel what I feel.

It’s crushing, it’s very heavy.

So I want you to smile and enjoy life.

Don’t worry about too much

because there is nothing we can do to make this world right.

as long as the earth lasts

a retired mother vacuums an empty house, implores the quiet spaces for response

and feels an overflow threaten her eyes when she understands

 

the sand blasted beach cottage where family mosquito-plagued board games

inevitably descended into

 

memories of a chance encounter. A night when soft lips held a smile at rest,

begging to be joined by his coarser embrace and to remind him

 

silent Christmas mornings, when no one else is awake apart from a parrot at the

feeder, feel like

 

the sorrowful waiting room dictating one visitor at a time transforms the vending

machine into a monster and only serves to accentuate

 

the gravity of a child’s giggling first step across unforgiving linoleum floor is as pure as

 

a fifteen kilometre walk to the family’s water source allows the necessary time to
think about

 

one gull in flight, so unmistakably wise and independent riding the updraft, can

see even better than

 

the most astute commentator may unmask government failings but will never

remove their own façade to comprehend the

 

sound of waves, ten feet above tingling skin, in an ocean without fear is the closest

one can come to

 

the feeling of a wedding day, when the flowers are fresh, lasts as long as

 

the time it takes to cross a loud, disconnected stranger-infested intersection is

enough to realise

 

we will never know enough about each other’s insides to uncover why

 

so many lost people are misunderstood and dismissed by those who are as ignorant as

 

a film star is everything you want to be, then in any interview is never the human you
want them to be but

 

music is always best experienced alone at night amongst slices of moonlight

while you imagine

 

the things you write under the sun but would never utter aloud except to

 

a pet is the kindest listener because they rarely pass judgement and you believe

they can’t translate

 

your emotions catch you napping in the merciless afternoons and none are as
complex as

 

the idea of love seems both tangible and foreign when you gaze upon

 

a sharp petite face you’ve just whispered a secret to, trusting them to keep it in
confidence so no one ever knows

 

a tiny green caterpillar arches its face skyward through the long grass, completely
unaware

 

that a baby is cradled by an arm of the church, gently wet and forced to follow

Jesus without a voice to speak while

 

the last bus recedes before she could reach it, and as the rain explodes on the
footpath, a hooded girl is waiting

 

for a young man who takes pale steps through a crowded room full of old people,
one woman repeating ‘nice to meet you’ to her daughter, to where his
grandfather is

 

listening intently before being questioned, the light in a politician’s eyes shifts in
shade and he spreads his hands; about to elucidate

 

all is not lost but we are always alone. That’s why misty-faced soldiers

 

never stay for long even though the beautiful bodies of blonde, mid-twenties, skinny
dippers at midnight speak of hope

 

when her lips meet his eyes he’s never seen such a complicated twist and neither can

say what they want because

 

friendship can seem so much easier when a smooth brown horse sharing straw and
sawdust in silent companionship with a farm dog explains

 

that even the weakest solitary iceberg, accosted from every angle, never becomes soft

but that doesn’t stop it

 

— disappearing

courtney barnett – sometimes i sit and think, and sometimes i just sit

4/5

Despite some dreary content you can’t help but want to hang out with Courtney Barnett.

This may be the Victorian’s debut full length album but her talent and sound have already been well established with singles such as History Eraser, Avant Gardener, and Pickles From The Jar. For the majority of this album it won’t surprise with the way it sounds, with a couple of brilliant exceptions. It won’t cease to please her fans either. There’s something very endearing about Courtney’s deadpan stream of consciousness delivery and her elaborate self-critique. The opening three tracks; Elevator Operator, Pedestrian At Best, and An Illustration Of Loneliness (Sleepless In New York) display her energy, dry wit, and way with words. She has a vocabulary but is just as skilled at turning everyday language into quirky phrases. Pedestrian At Best is an early highlight, the writing is superb.

The album covers many topics but the main three would be; consumerism and the environment (Dead Fox and Kim’s Caravan), middle class society (Elevator Operator and Depreston), and Courtney herself (Aqua Profunda!, Pedestrian At Best, and Boxing Day Blues).

Quite rocky throughout with her all ‘aussie’ accent, you think you have Courtney Barnett pegged but then comes along Depreston and Kim’s Caravan. In these two tracks the accent is less noticeable and her voice quite beautiful as she really decides to sing. Depreston is a wonderful song. It’s hard to describe in my inexperience but it feels old and nostalgic from the get go and is best listened to driving around your local towns. There is one particular section of this song that brings tears to the eyes because the image is so relatable and, well, depressing. It will hit home hard for some people. Kim’s Caravan begins and you think the cd has ejected and the radio is on. The opening sounds like a completely different artist, eerie and creepy. Then Courtney’s voice joins in, sad and drained here, hooking you until the end. This song isn’t entirely pleasant , especially when she remarks the Great Barrier Reef has been “raped beyond belief” and “treated like a whore”. Nevertheless you can’t stop listening.

The album leaves us knowing she will probably become quite an admired artist, outside of the mainstream of course, and that it would be very cool to hear her perform a Nirvana cover.

Highlight: Definitely Depreston for me but for new fans, perhaps Pedestrian At Best

Plot Points

‘This fucking heatwave.’

Sweat itches David’s beard,

wished he’d had a shave.

Black spider kicks up dust,

dropping from his leathered arm

to crack earth’s fragile crust.

But in God we trust.

*

Only the hardy remain

but changed just the same,

withered and bowed

like  poorly assembled skeletons.

Their roots searching deeper

and deeper all the time

against a villain-less crime.

*

The heifer lays breathing distress,

overcome by weakness.

Side by side they stand looking down

thinking ‘there’s one less’.

David moves forward,

lucerne in his hand but his father stops him.

No argument, it was only ever a whim.

*

Mother lying in hospital

breathing from one-half lung.

Smoke still blown into his face

by his best mates.

Her colour runs away

like dye in the laundry.

A shame, she’s not long left her forties.

*

Family photos grown dusty

on a hospital bedside table.

(Condition in decline but stable).

A fraction of her life

held in recollections.

The rest, the parts she keeps to herself,

forever restricted sections.

*

Daughter bouncing up and down

on the bed,

endlessly forgetting the last thing she said.

All her books have a happy end

where rules of reality bend, and break.

Sees the cattle’s ribs, tells her daddy

sees the dogs ribs, tells her daddy they’re hungry.

*

Consoles himself,

knows they’re all in it together

holding on as tight as each other.

Natural disaster, a great leveller.

Sees a wombat dead on the road,

wheel marks over its spine.

‘Why can’t people take their time?’

*

A baby and a dog alone in a car

while the mercury surges

and a man shops,

his thoughts absent of how they are.

Glass crystal scatters

from a rock, solid blow.

Prisoners freed, muscles drained, moving slow.

*

White shirt,

blue tie,

black pants.

A slight paunch

only the arrogant possess.

‘What the fuck are you doing with my child?’

As rainclouds join the sky, come to bless.

*

David closes his eyes but he may as well be looking directly at the sun. His vision swims with red as rage fires out into every nerve ending. A ringing starts up in his ears, blocking all other noise out. He opens his eyes and hits the man in the jaw, knocking him down. As the man tries to rise David grabs his shirt and punches him again, breaking his nose in a burst of blood. The man is helpless and David hits him again. He could kill him. He wants to. He wants to keep hitting and hammering away until the man’s body is mush, until his soul is gone. The man’s very existence is tearing at the fabric which keeps David believing everything is going to be okay. He is dragged off before he can do too much damage. Although three fury-filled hits have been enough to leave the man in a mess. Nose squashed, lips split, darkening eyes, a broken jaw to round it out. Whether it was because of the commotion or he was still feeling ill, the baby boy is crying again and David can’t help thinking, looking at screwed-up anguished eyes, he’s made a terrible mistake.

Fruit

Delicate but sure she rested

her slim leg on the rim of the bathtub,

the razor poised as she glanced out the window to the yard.

The orange tree was flinching from the wind.

It looked different, the leaves changing colour

when they shouldn’t be and the fruit

didn’t taste like it ever used to do.

Her boyfriend stood near to where

the roots met the bottom of the pine wood fence,

chatting to their neighbour James.

Their words were too soft to hear

but she guessed they were gentle

from the smiles, small and sincere.

As Sophie regarded her lover she recalled

the last time they slept together.

There was something that was not there.

She noticed David’s eyes linger

when James walked back inside.

Fertiliser, for the orange tree.

It needed a boost; she’d get some from the store.

She put the unused razor down

and headed for the door.

*

That night washing up, he knicked

his finger on the point of a steak knife.

Exclaiming from the pain, the shock, the blood

and the feeling of being so suddenly uncomfortable

he turned and said; “Honey can you finish?”

She raised her eyes; saw a pinprick, barely notable

and stared mystified, not yet misty-eyed

but a thought filled her head.

‘Who am I living with?’

*

In front of the bathroom mirror

he’d vacated not five minutes before,

she didn’t scream or cry out at what she saw.

A big huntsman hunched in the corner of the glass,

watching who knows what, maybe the fly

buzzing down to where the tiles joined

the plaster of the wall. Sophie sighed,

strode silently to the kitchen cupboard

under the sink; ignored the spray and grasping the dustpan,

took the spider and set him down easy on the porch

where he scuttled off into the dark.

Super-scared or not afraid at all,

she wasn’t sure if David would answer if she asked him.

*

The fertiliser failed to do its job but she

wouldn’t be downtrodden,

it wasn’t the only thing she bought from the shops.

She appraised her reflection as she slid

the silk of her new underwear

past the stubble and up to her hips.

It didn’t look right with the grease

still staining her hands. She’d had

to change the oil in the Mazda

because David said his finger was sore,

thought it might be infected.

No, it wasn’t, she told him

firmly as a doctor would if they checked it.

She did it anyway as she didn’t know

what else to do. She couldn’t scream

“Why can’t you?” It would only

raise a meek response, their

recent conversations were permeated

with more than a few of them.

It was like he didn’t want to raise his voice,

frightened of its volume, its texture

or something else.

*

Finally bedtime again, Sophie removed her clothes

bar the black and red lingerie

and walked into the lamp lit room.

He was bent over sitting on top of the quilt,

his phone hidden down between the bed and dresser light.

David looked up and quickly shut it off

but said; “Honey I’m so tired.”

Quiet, she stepped into the ensuite

to be sad on her own. There she found

evidence of a claim she hadn’t yet made.

In the lukewarm wash of the light bulb

she spied her razor glinting. Nothing odd

about that but what gave her pause

were the dark hairs, resting weightlessly

in the still-sharp blades, she was certain had never

been shaved from her pores.

She rushed back in,

pushed him on the quilt and tore the

fabric from his skinny frame, forced him into love.

His smooth calves slipped in the sheets,

her bristly thighs felt conscious on his skin.

Everything felt wrong and all he could think

was that he’d like to try those panties on.

*

In the morning she told him she had to leave.

He took her hand. ‘We need to talk.’

His gaze pleaded like an adolescent child.

She put her arms around and placed his head

in the crook of her shoulder.

Her single tear splashed on his face,

while his trickled down to wet

the engagement ring held precariously on her necklace.