my days return to the property
so all I have lived terminates here
half the case for my father who has travelled-
the dull and ageing fences sway in the dry wind
paddocks full of footprints and horse shit
wheels drive the siren closer once he has collapsed
inside the shed
tunnels of smoke rising from the fireplace
his heart has filtered thin drifts of life from the air
the house has filled with absence, with loneliness
the divide bridged only by my mother’s forced
I stay awake that night talking to his ghost until drink
floods my veins, praying to a God I hate.
dim stars hang from the gutters of the shed outside
my bedroom window
no moon shapes or separates the scattered skylights.
I cry for my failure as a son and slash my arms
with an old box cutter to die before him.
when I finally sleep I dream of his lifeless white body
I tell him I love him and that I’m sorry
night fades in and out, whisper to whisper.
the men in our family can expect the failure
of the body,
the need of multiple bypasses to sustain
breathing and consciousness,
the chest heaved from its opening, the
collapse of an organ, silencing all motion.
vats of human blood line the walls
of hospitals as reminders.
bullet tubes pricking the skin, body resetting
its hourglass as the illness takes hold.
the open heart is probed by the surgeon’s
knives and wires: they know
as well as we do
this curse is inherited, a root embedded
in the family tree.
my father won’t look at me as we drive home
from the bus stop
I watch sheep and paddocks disappear out the window
houses slide in the other direction behind the thin fence-lines
conversation is stunted and forced between us.
I am tired of school and life: I decide I am tired of him too
he asks if I will help with the greyhounds
when we reach the house
when I say no he hits me properly for the first time in his life
his fist claps my shoulder roughly and I start to cry
his strained voice pressing my throat into the rear view mirror
when we get inside I change my clothes and walk out to the runs
where we slip our best race dog and feed the others
he forgives me and sits down to watch the races on TV:
it was all my fault and he is a good father.
Woodstock darkens beneath the recycled sky
I lock myself in my room after dinner and fall asleep
hoping I won’t wake up but I know I will
it starts to rain outside, thick wires batter the roof above me
I hear the clang of tin as it hits the shed and silo
cold spirals shelter our farm, redirect the storm.
it was weeks before Dad returned home from hospital
and even then he suffered death a second time
spluttering beneath his gutted body, his chest’s bloody centre
cries rang through paddocks, dissolving into an empty sky.
smoking outside on that
first night of his second life, I watched the grasses bending in
the light, fading from my view.
from Rain Season (2013)