Uncollected: The Boys Who Stole The Funeral
The kitchen's not urbane: The past has not been excised here
or wittily selected. It has gradually shifted outwards
from the centre. Or held. The blender and the laminex
reflects timber, and a tea caddy. The electric oven
and the iron Beacon Light stove are toe-to-toe under the mantel.
His grief, which has been a clamped white concentration
colours for the first time, teasing out the principle:
that the world is provisional, complete at every moment,
that the centre is the First Real World. My parents'. Then mine.
That away from the centre are the losses, the stands, the arrangements,
the bayoneted man dreaming I can still live, arching over
as he bleeds from the centre, like and unlike the shallow river
straddling a new pylon, beginning to rearrange gravel
in fresh miles of consequence. Only the centre holds, the centre
Famous twice over now,
The chip-gravelled woodheap surrounds him, kindling and chunks,
the blushes, the sheens that a trimming axe elicited,
the fibres and stairs of its bitter-tongued step-upon-step;
now moveless in a notch, its blond muscle angles toward him.
Something grew antique here. Two steps on a curious leg
climb out of the dirt, and a German-silver spiral
greens by the wall, a paradox for dank slaters.
To comfort himself, he is droning a pet-food jingle:
Cantilever rabbit and je-elly beans (his version)
and the river signals fast between the she-oak branches.
His head between his hands, as if caught in a pioneer chimney,
Forbutt sits behind the shed on a chicken-stained block.
Wattlebirds are worrying the coral trees' scarlet lipsticks
and a great spirit, undiscerned, is all around him.
He hurries some way down the road
and stands shaking his head
(the cars have all melted away
in the folds of the country).
The spontaneity and freedom
which devoured his home
have taught him such control
he does not know what to feel.
He finds a snake crushed in the wheeltracks,
it is tangled in coarse string,
kids caught, tied, dragged, tossed it here
and left it to die fighting,
an infinitely pliable abstraction
of itself, a quick footless thing.
Obsolete and therefore deaf,
both old men from the Battalion
hang their heads and smile at boards,
the sunlight under the veranda.
Obsolete and therefore blind,
women nervously hand their toddlers
back and forth, small pastel bells
and little one-toothed woollen shouters.
Obsolete and thus irrelevant,
farmers nod and shake their heads,
sharing with dated wives and cousins
subtleties of passé restraint.
Oblongs of the shed roof opposite
capture the sun's free-floating anger.
Honeyed dust and bush lemon are the perfumes they breathe, walking,
hungry on the west-climbing road. Stars reign above the trees;
the galaxy is canted over east, to the rows of horizon there.
Ahead, there is a fire, and vehicles parked about:
the fire's name is Chiack. Men are assembled, moving round it.
Come and have a drink, yous! Now they are to be punished
for the funeral, for enterprise. You drink rum? Get it into yer.
Can yous dance? Or do you only jerk and wobble,
jiggy-jiggy with a twitch, like a brown dog shitting wing-nuts?
er not quite that way / We could learn it off your kids, though
Can yous sing a song? Or do you trip and bridge
with a dummy in your earhole, clicking with your fingers?
hes knocking the rock / Tell us more about that dog
but the men grieve sourly, injured in their music.
It is a pity we always had to be sensible,
thinks Gladys Dunn, turning things back into her garden,
darkening the sweet-pea beds from a plastic bucket.
I've reached the age (again!) of taking stock.
She goes to the rust-still, algae-curdled dam
that is level with the garden, allows the bucket sinkage,
watches her daughter and Reeby approach past the feed-shed
and hauls up the bucket, brimming with loose shine and life-chains.
This is how I will meet everything in my life,
working at my jobs. My daughter is sovereign and sure
so soon after teeth-braces and her dressage ribbons,
and he is stronger than he thinks, her stammerer.
Over the sensible worked earth they approach her,
touching tall stakes, in the moment before normalities.