The hearing aid dog was well-trained
& shuffled backwards with everyone else
to the rear of the lift, as if it had been taught
good hospital manners too.
Its tail wagged for the human company,
begging for the reward to come,
as they made room for the elderly cancer patient.
A ginger furred metronome that beat out
its silent tattoo in the stainless steel box
where it was its own master’s voice,
& just listened.
Thirty-four years had passed to the day,
as he guided his daughter into the Mater’s
oncology unit, but he didn’t tell her about
her grandfather’s betrayal by his own blood;
how his mid-forties body had ratted him out
in the solicitor’s waiting room. How, after his
comment on how nice the air-con was, he’d
sunk into his chair like a poor naval rating on
the Atlantic run, glued to his drowning post;
limbs gunmetal heavy. His skin collapsing
in flimsy pockets like the silk of a deflated
barrage balloon whose strength is only found
under pressure. She didn’t need the extra shit,
so he kept mum about it, as she saddled up
with the other antibody expats & the much
asked for Josh inserted his carbon-enriched
needle & let flow her grandfather’s blood.
This gulf was someone else’s lifetime,
or a long prison sentence from the old days.
Her appointment, the same day as Wigginton
was let out, media tagged; the lesbian vampire
killer ahead of her time, bemused by the sexiness
of Stoker’s undead culture two decades on.
This evilladies.com centrefold who lapped
a man’s vitals like a mangrove aerial root,
absorbing the Brisbane river’s tidal ooze.
Moreton Bay figs threw a long shadow
where her mouth should have been;
red lipstick smudged on night’s collar.
How different the desire for blood.
The only anniversary he discussed
was last year’s flood.
How the Ipswich mental poor lined up
to be fed & housed in his elite school;
how the mattresses were tossed out afterwards.
How now was a good time to buy,
as flood-damaged houses sold for 1990s prices.
How investors were taking a hit.
How they couldn’t find the right family home;
how they were thinking of investing.
How tragic the situation was, one year on.
For the rest of the intragam
he talked her ear off about Tolkien.
Tales of blood & love from the First Age
of Middle-Earth; how the fires of revenge
were stoked in the hearts of the Noldor
after the theft of the Silmarils.
How Feanor who crafted them,
was so filled with fiery rage
that after he died his body burnt up,
as if it were space junk re-entering the atmosphere.
& how the mortal man, Beren
had to prise one of these gemstones
from a sleeping dark god’s iron crown
to win the hand of the Elvish princess Luthien,
like a diver flensing a glitzy pearl
from an oyster’s muscly band of flesh.
Then, before he was finished, it was over;
her monthly anniversary numbed by storytelling.
Like an assassin, Josh slipped out the needle
& vanished; blankets were withdrawn
& thrown into bins. Lunch betrayed.
They collected their gear;
somewhere between the cancer ward
& the ground floor,
a small dog growled as they passed.
Downstairs they passed a darkened chapel;
the rest of the day was theirs to celebrate.
For John Acutt
The shape is roughly circular, as though some child
Has stuck their finger into an orange’s crinkly skin
& pulled it open, but the edges are swollen & wild;
Like lava frozen by the sea or stoneware fired in a kiln.
It is a new edifice of the soul, with its unique entrance
& exit, an omphalus that his generations humbly touch,
His grandfather’s ancestral close shave. In an instance,
The navel of their world was founded by only this much;
A thumb & forefinger spread less than a millimetre apart.
Like a split lip, destiny arrived in a second; the rock of ages.
A tobacco tin in his breast pocket saved their sacred heart.
The others fell; fine actors who exited their muddy stages.
When he is thirsty, there are many stories that he can tell:
He drinks not from life’s full river, but from a family well.
Anterior Dispersion Segment Disorder
What better language than a child’s eyes
a head of wheat plaited cascades down the back
of a blond hill. Everything’s central to someone.
This hill’s a barrow, a skull of remembrance,
say Marathon’s blistered skin. Trees point like children
embracing their mother tongue, isn’t bark just hieroglyph?
Something scratched, something won.
Six eyes that I love look back at me;
One the eyes of a wolf, yellow sun-bursts around them,
The other bejeweled, a star sapphire, blue fire fun.
& the one I’ll take with me, green dryad
goddess concealed by mystery’s perfection.
When the Chinese lantern is shuttered
All light leaves, our vision interrupted.
For John Lyon
The tough plastic tidy trays that he once stacked
His students’ folders in, now coffin his old school
Technology. Stripped of its duty, the beige enamel
& chipboard desk stretches; Atlas shifting his weight.
It squats naked, but for his nikko-ed name tag; bare
Of the rows of Emily Dickinson & Death of a Salesman,
That bowed its metal for thirty years; like a job for life.
All boxed up; his signature pencilled on the inside covers
Like a tattoo of a child’s name on a tender shoulder blade.
Already his legacy has turned retro. His analogue counter
Stopped. Eighties audio cassettes hibernate in neat rows;
Tentacles of plastic film wrapped tightly around tiny
Starfish spindles; one says: Ego is Not a Dirty Word.
The Handbook of English rests on its broken spine.
At first she thought she’d jagged
Her finger on a bit of lost tackle,
A fishing hook still impaled through
The blue cheek of wet weather tarp.
This square of new sky patched onto
Their backyard’s dead brown frame;
A venomous banner swiftly run up
The maypole of his mother’s heart.
For, as she peeled back the fabric
Flexible as mandarin skin, there it
Sat, cocked black as a trigger. The
Juice of its poison catching the sun
Like a dark marqusite. The sting in
Its tail loaded like some primitive gun.