on the back steps, instant coffee from your
father’s mug, sky wrapped around
the city insistently, temporarily
uncalibrating your horizons. old muffler &
surplus star-pickets rusting on the slab
that housed the shed we never got
approval for (poured where, even further
back, the lemon tree was). everything’s a
cyclone risk. haruki carts a brick around.
downstairs, remnants of posters in what’s
left of your room at the end of what used
to be his workshop. memories configured
like a map. this gifts you basic navigation,
though no guarantee of the best route.
as if, even now, you thought there is one.
thirty minutes south of cairns, the boy
wants to know when we get to australia.
mate, we’re already there. (some of us
never left.) so where’s the big dog? &
where does this road go? how long until
we get to nana’s? are we going home
tomorrow? not tomorrow, no. hired hyundai
turns onto pilkington street, kilometres
of small business, all riding on the hoon’s
back. home again, home again, jiggity-jig.
stella in the midst of her reign of terror,
hana squealing every time she comes near.
thursday morning, you try to triangulate
the clothesline, one arm taken out in
althea, bodgied-up & still standing, forty
years on. a modest history hung on a hills
hoist. everything was somehow smaller
back then, now distance is elastic &
relative & you meet distant relatives as the
kids jump & jump on the trampoline &
this is where you came from, where you
always are, even if it’s not where you went,
not where you’re going. on the back steps,
instant coffee, father’s mug. photographs
& heirlooms & the stars fill the sky the
way the sky insinuates itself into the city.
all these years remembering auntie von
twisting your ear, & tonight she swears
that was kevin, not you, carrying on
like a pork chop in the war memorial,
sydney, 1979. dad’s car under a tarp
under the house. stella & cal whining to
be let in & the kids crashed out in the
back room, everyone just a little sunburnt.
fleas & not so much the smell of dogs as
how quickly you start to stop noticing.
the bulletin still running the same letter
from bigoted, north ward, who believes
everyone deserves respect (for a strictly
defined value of everyone) before the
tiny belch of hate. not all that different to
the keep japan japanese crowd in the end.
standards must be maintained after all.
not that i’ve come to take your jobs or
steal your men or women. don’t forget to
stock up on vegemite & stare at the island
from the strand. up talking with mum
until early every night, the dog stirs
occasionally, the kids, too. instant coffee,
father’s mug, you smoke kools on the back
landing as mum’s voice fills the kitchen,
mary & arthur & skippy & quinkie &
grandma nielsen & auntie nell & on & on.