Age of reason
In a bank on a weekday,
I saw a younger girl,
blonde hair in pink clips,
spiral glitter sneaker laces
— baubles of a treasured child
that no-one ever bought for me.
A girl in a parlour painting,
and I the hairy spider
hulking in the corner of the frame.
In the war-room of the mind,
I pierced my map with pins. How simple
to trick her to some dirty culvert,
hold her down, mar her white arms,
beat, mutilate, throttle,
kill her. The thing would be
to borrow some of my father's tools —
perhaps that hammer, that handsaw, that small chisel
whose edge shone from sharpening.
I was larger than her, stronger,
and had the key to the crankshaft
of the well of the world's evil,
secret prize surely slipped me
for merit, the giver
I only swung on the queue ropes
then left with my mother,
but I could see how easily
it could have gone otherwise.
The world of banks, of mothers with shopping,
of cars humming peaceably in lanes,
was at any time a single breath away
from savagery, fire, riot in the street.
Civilisation was a hair draped
on the head of a pin, each one of us
clutching our own pin still — I could see
I would cramp with the effort
all my life.
Did you know, the other day
I drove that northern road again? Who knew
you could assail the country of childhood
so simply: just get in the car and go.
But this country
was not our country. The road
I sought, long, straight and pale,
lay beneath another road, across a membrane
I could not pierce. Still the ragged lady gums
danced their set across the river bridge,
but the drought had lifted:
the hearts of the horse-tail grass were green,
the paddocks chartreuse, nubbled velvet strewn
with what I took to be litter, but later saw
was a voluminous cast of white cockatoos,
gorging on plenty.
But of course you don't know —
you are not here to tell.
The membrane is thickening,
and that country is drifting away.
There is no-one here with me
to watch it go.
He has grown a beard
like a wild man, and his hair flies out
like the dandelion fuzz
of boyhood. Beneath a foreign road sign,
burnt face, white eyes, that nose
like a bag stuffed with knuckles.
Desert prophet in a cave —
what have you come
to tell me?
What is love when
absence is perpetual? A plug
ever unsocketed. Some rubbish
thrown from a window at speed.
Won't you come home, my love,
I have only destroyed everything
you ever knew, knocked down the house
and razed the land, changed my name, and
cut off my face and burnt it. Aside from that
I am the same.
Belinda Rule is a writer of poetry and fiction from Melbourne. At other times she has been a history academic and a university administrator.