In the dark corridor
of the house I am haunting
(it towers on flimsy foundations
is all duck egg cornices
hangs a dark curtain.
When I brush it aside
(it rustles like breath in whisker hairs
and is as slender)
something slides further into the shadows.
I am not at pains to know what
this retreating figure
(because it was that – solid, if on wheels,
led perhaps, a stiffened toy
pulled by something darker.) is.
I let the fabric drop
and ripple off into the light
but now there is a new thing
caught there in the crux of my diaphragm.
I shoulder off fear and attend to new
footsteps in the dusty debris.
The bread that I made
morsel after morsel missed your mouth
and so all this kneading and knifing
came to this crumb in the mud trodden garden.
The wheat that grew
the yeast that rose
the days and days spent
like silver coins that tremble in your pocket
grains and grains from the silo to the mill
fall to this sparrow to eat
all beak and instinct
combing and combing through the world for edibles
and our crumb turns to wingbeats
wind in the trees and dust-throwing breeze.
On a day with the wind and the sun
fidgeting with the clouds
we will leave the town for the long hot stretches of the road
where the distance fidgets with our eyesight
and we will say the names of places
a mantra as the wheels turn on the bitumen.
The children shout for Melbourne, Adelaide and Bight,
but you will say ‘Ceduna’ with the sunset wharf
across your brow for a moment the revving engines in the dark
and I’ll say ‘Esperence’ over west
with all those oversized flowers and blooming surf
and the lift of clouds that have only known sea
and find that raining on land
makes fascinating punctures in the earth
to get all that fidgeting back again.
I loved you all the better that evening:
you came in from the half dark
after chasing the chooks home
with your earthy feet
dry and calloused
like the feet of a witch
who grew herbs among her flowerbeds
thick rich greens edible
fantastic in the flakey night.
Your words became feathery and
preened in the lamplight
the ones that formed and formed again
so that your tongue grew calloused and dry
flakey as your naked feet
and just as telling.
This feeling gently grew like darkness
over the way you poured us tea
turning on your heel to fetch
lemons or more water
the curve on the shadow of your ankle
fathers there, or leaves
to cure us of cares that have been
calloused as chicken’s feet
thick, now, as thieves.