you leave
and europe falls
into one final convulsion
of cold

one final snowstorm
that fails to ground your plane
we are flecked in white
as we slip under newly heavy bags

then you are gone and
realising there is nothing more it can do
europe finally begins the long struggle
back towards the sun

the trees flecked in new green
you are getting sunburnt in the wrong hemisphere
while I drink and slip and finally sleep
my way through shrinking european nights

drunk and accompanied and three suburbs
from home at least the hour
is reasonable
in your part of the world

* * *

Alex’s Poem

We sealed that year off end to end
with a fire in the sand,
some newly redundant school books for kindling,
the moon as it slid into black water,
and us, as we swam in what was left.

There was music in spare rooms,
dirty carpets and hallway mattresses,
bus stops and half cigarettes in mint tins.
There was slowly and carefully taking up smoking.

There were strange plants
and you, knowing all their names, their stories
their patterns and how to smoke them.

There were mornings,
back when the sun still stung –
our skin raw and chemical pale,
all that self-induced and how it felt so real
when everything that was supposed to didn’t.

There were the nights I couldn’t go home.
And your house, eating all our hours in great fistfuls
your family, their well-masked insanity,
the messy safety in the walls.

There was walking
and the things we saw
at 3am when the streets slept everything but us.
That town, raving mad in all directions,
our silences full as conversation,
the river stitching North to South.

And in the evenings,
when the sky bloomed,
cracked and bleeding colours we didn’t think existed
from horizon to horizon and searing down into the sea
whole landscapes of light
and nobody else looking up.

There was almost figuring it out.
Before the drugs wore off,
before the glare came back,
before the real world finally came for us.

There were the sharehouses,
dropping away one by one,
then the slow creeping swallow of steady work hours,
of repetition, of necessity, of evenings of waiting for the next.

There was how little our friends had in common when drunk,
how the boredom got in,
how our town had nothing left.

And now, a continent away, as the town dissolves around you,
I can’t remember what it was we understood then,
what they didn’t,
why that was important.

I just remember
the bridge as it held us,
our bellies to the railing
and 3am and black water and the bugs in the bridge light,
current stirring through the slick on the surface
and something we could never quite explain
going on underneath.

* * *

In transit

The transition is far too sudden.
There should be hours spent in something slow moving,
something with wheels and a struggling engine.
There should be a gradual and logical shift in scenery.

But instead there is a walk from dirt and colour through glass
into another airport – that perfect, universal interstitial –
to emerge three blank hours later into all this symmetry.
And another trip becomes something I closed my eyes
and imagined once.

Appliances are quick to feed two weeks into drainpipes.
I am well showered. Clothing is no longer four days worn, coated
in old sweat and jungle shrapnel. This bed has no history. There are whole
cupboards to put things in; possessions are no longer sealed
in zippers, and from the balcony, the view sits neat on a well-planned horizon.

Early evening is spent strolling a city river all boxed up in concrete.
Christmas lights make slippery patterns over water and he talks about how
he has done so much with his life, so much…
I think about all those clean rooms, so high up.

We drink too much and eat until we can barely walk.
Conversation is food or work related. Here, I am too drunk and too young
and people keep asking about my future. Every now and then
someone leaves the table to inspect the statues at the waterfront –
short, governmental paragraphs on colonial history, etched into brass.

I wake at 4 a.m. into air-conditioning. Fully clothed, shoes and all, diagonal
across a well-made bed. Around me, everything appears in order.

* * *

Wind and Loose Objects

Today is wind and loose objects.
A pair of glasses become a boat,
lenses catch the breeze and sail
for the horizon of the tabletop

In the city, bins catch alight.
Snagged passers by watch
as green plastic pools on sidewalks
before making a break for the gutter.

Somewhere beyond here, there is chaos.
It is mumbled about in radio broadcasts,
the effects on distant acquaintances;
newspapers spread it over cafe tables at breakfast.

But from this bubble of buildings,
it only really appears in bin fires,
and in the way the wind takes hold
of anything we haven’t yet tied down.


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