Under the floorboards Shadow and Smoke bark
through these windy summer nights, always
at queer intervals. Something’s got up their noses
or call and response with a distant yard.
All summer long awakened from dreams by barks,
remembering each of them through, shabby kinescopes.
The guys upstairs come fetch them in the morning
and disappear till night, always leaving
the light on in the storeroom,
to make it more cheerful, I suppose.
Perhaps even the radio on low, tuned
to the easy-listening channel, KBLX, The Quiet Storm,
I’ve grown used to them down there,
like the sound of the streetcar right before dawn
with its keening whine and groan.
But the renters promise to be out by fall.
I thought of you the other night,
walking in the hills late, later than usual,
the moon only a day or two from full.
How it was full the night you arrived,
which is something you seem to plan, saying:
– Next full moon I’ll be in Torres Strait,
PO Box Thursday Island.
I’ve been meaning to write.
The rest of the naked ladies finally came up,
dozens of them, waving their pink heads in the fog.
Only the one, poking through the dirt when you left,
is a stalk now with a shrivelled head.
They do look garish so late in the summer,
like Rockettes in a dusty frontier town.
But you see, none of it really fits quite right,
the pieces I find or that come round, unbidden.
I had wanted badly to get in that part,
the wog from the western suburbs,
your momma’s fluttering hands and the trip in
with Grandma on Sunday, the two hours by train
and tram all the way to over near Bondi
for black bread and smelly salami ...
The bits we choose to keep and what leave out –
these absences take on a life themselves.
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