From our town on the Divide
we made a yearly pilgrimage to coast
an open car with no mapline
for plateau tumbling into scarp
a forked drive in biting air, though forest
trailing scarves of mistletoe
crowded saplings culled of light
seeds crows took as evidence of life.
We climbed the lookout lost in fog.
I held other backs in case the track gave way
beneath snaking cuneiform
the distance between mountains learned
by birdcall ricochet. Locals knew
inhabitants – ferns and riflebirds,
black wallabies masked with shadow
revealed by telephoto.
My nightmares-house invented cloud,
dry lesions, thirsty storms –
a mostly dead creek ringed with cairns
for bearded dragon bones.
Even silhouettes of tree ferns
are scaled in blood-moon hue.
The midday sun turns neon pink
on catastrophic days.
I’m ordering a water tank in shades of eucalyptus,
seven thousand litre prayers instead of rain.
MUSHROOMING WITH MY FATHER
With sunrise in our hair, still
in pyjamas, our coats catching
as we slip-stepped through
serrations of fence into gully erosion,
we carried zinc buckets
and followed our father
into thistles and over
machinery parts, mystified
by the directions he rasped
around his cigarette.
It took a long time for dark
to ease into light, as I walked,
always last, my sister ahead
in a halo of blonde, my father
raising a hand, saying ‘mushrooms’.
I’d stay back and watch them
race up a hill, their bodies
a kind of cuneiform on the terrain,
then kneeling in grass, the way
a wild animal is soothed
with measured, slow movement,
I’d slice the margin between cap
and stalk, flipping them easily
with inherited skill.
When our buckets were full
we’d return to the car, leaving
talk for later, concentrating
on shadows that still clung
around knee-deep furrows and
culverts in creek beds
we’d invented as waterholes.
Driving home, I’d repeat names
to myself of familiar signposts –
Bundarra, Castledoyle, Kentucky –
setting my own compass needle
for home, where the trophies
were fried to a buttery sludge,
each betraying the scent of earth
and cow-trampled grass as they fell
from saucepan to plate.