Ian C Smith
Watching yachts, tinnies, round Old Man’s Head,
he considers the choice of a single word
to describe the way gulls flicker across
sifted cloudlight blanketing Bass Strait.
He dwells here each summer like a gipsy,
staying wherever he can overlook this cove.
Here in the lee of the roaring forties
sand engulfs the scaffolding of an old wreck.
Children have built a Lord of the Rings realm,
a stark beachscape weathering tides,
reminding him of times past, sojourns
when his children sculpted sunlit sand.
Where the sea furls muscular young men run.
How can they be his sons from long ago?
Yet their names are the same, the blond manes,
their self-conscious shouts a narrative
nothing like his own best-forgotten youth.
They plunge in, a weight shifting his heart.
Silent women from the yoga retreat smile.
A pair of sea eagles circle the tinted sky.
Near the pioneer’s grave he catalogues
his picaresque past, shivers, his silence
ringing like the cessation of a tolled bell
marking seasons which all too quickly fall.
I clumsied my second-hand clock from wall to floor,
batteries skating over crumbed tiles.
When the second hand moved forward,
those batteries snugly re-nooked,
the clock re-hooked, back to despot status,
I day-dreamed about time’s durability.
Listening to a train tracking to the port
I remember a lake flickering through pine trees,
long languid nights on slow-moving trains,
shadows swaying, never to be repeated,
present becoming instantly irretrievable.
Yet I squander it dreaming of the adroit past.
I notice my clock’s hours are reversing,
travelling absurdly through time past.
Nine o’clock has become eight o’clock,
arousing a vague idea of the perfect trip
from age to youth, reliving train whistles,
back to laughter, music crying out, love.
I am stuck with old and clumsy,
neither I nor magic clock setting speed records.
I ponder other less than ideal time-travel aspects,
such as the clarity of grief growing ever wilder
or nothing happening again and again.
Mocked by a clock, my enthusiasm wanes.
Were you someone once?
He knocks on her front door – their door
before an everafter ranged in silent heartbane,
his mind a havoc of words at a loss what to say.
True to two of many sides of his nature
he tries a jaunty approach with little plan
when the door labelled Do Not Knock opens.
He has seen her on Facebook, recognises her
through the dark screen that remains closed.
Can I get a free cup of coffee? he ad libs
after she shyly says, Hello, then nothing more.
No, she replies, voice weighted with regret
he thinks before repeating his lame greeting
exchanging coffee for tea on impulse.
He prefers tea, thinks he sounds clownish,
imagines a harlequinade, the drab street laughing
as she again refuses, holding that sad smile.
He opens the screen, sidling into better light
saying, Don’t you recognise me?
No, she says, searching his old map of a face
for signs to a time now in ruin
as he repeats his name, former status,
words like gagging flux, a fictional stranger’s.
Once upon a time in Calulu
I drove our Moke fast over the cattle grid
lickety-split bunkety-crunch, foot
poised above the brake, straight through
the open doors of a shed that became my office
to stop just before smashing into the wall
where tyres gripped oil-stains where carpet now
muffles the past’s rawness when we moved
in, possessions piled in two vehicles, or
was it three plus a trailer, grass unkempt, hum
of insects, a flowering forest so wild fences
hid from view, our rescued dogs pointing
towards freedom, remember that air’s
intoxication, our far-off mountains, the
future held at bay, perpetual possibility?
Gates guarding that dangerous grid, I park
my sensible car before the extension at
the correct angle for reversing safely on
my green drive, inside, rooms where time dwells
filled with things, outside, graves, dogs’
beloved wild grass tamed like a park, those
mountains unchanged, hiding the slipping sun.