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Lost and found


Lost and found

Out there, on that stub of deck,
testament to the tentativeness of his ambitions
from the time long ago when Father Raymund had decided
the calling he still grieved was more wish than summons.
To be wrapped in a yielding black,
identified with a communion of others

ritualising hope in their daily lives ... ever since
he had lived a consolation life, truth be told,
and anxiety had become his vocation.
Some things were best left suppressed.

He looked towards the clumps of mangrove
grasping at a past profusion.
Beyond them the water rippled
with distance or activity beneath,
it was hard to tell which,
and the sun slanted across it.
_______________________In the yard
an excess of pavers clamoured at the steps
to the deck, weaved downhill past the clothesline,
then petered out near the bins
standing archly by the drains.

He had not much ken for things,
their doggedness, their obsession with function,
the certainty of their witness.
Even this momentary exertion could exhaust him,
so he came back inside.
He caught a whiff of himself, sour disuse of age,
toasty in flannelette with the heater turned up high.
Washing was now timetable, not release, eating
perfunctory, the beer he sure-footedly avoided
as he huffed down into his chair, even that.

He pushed the bulges of his shoulder blades
into the worn padding and realised how stooped he was —
too much sitting, hunching forward in expectation?
No crane would admit to a neck like that!
But skin still smooth, like his father's, in his nineties what's more.
His mouth gaped involuntarily.
_______________________Those Campion days,
a ferment of faith, a substitute fellowship now falling one-by-one
to death's rifle shot, like the man-tassels of Lark Force
streaming south, more or less, along the bush tracks of Rabaul.
Him, he took the east coast, and saw the flying boat

from the shore. He waded first, then stroked to it.
The pilot had to jettison supplies to fit him in.
The news trickled in, prayers excised from shock,
from sadness. That, too, will be her lot, to remain,
inevitable as plastic tubing connected to an oxygen bottle,
septum rubbed raw.
___________Lilies were what he wanted,
his mother's name, not much to savour of her.
His sisters still argued who was the most dutiful.
The coming night was leeching light from the sky.
Chill descending; the heater would earn its keep.

The double-layered curtains were stretched to their fullest expanse.
He sought the prayer cards stuffed beneath the cushions.
They were there yesterday!
All that remained of the daily office denied him:
a rag-and-bone manliness of intonement.
Still, the old worships, words of others
dependable as railway tracks, his own contained
too much distraction, he reserved them for
the incidental and profane these days.
_______________________The wind buffeted
the windows, mocked his pretence of warmth.

She'd had the walls painted an unusual yellow,
verging on garish. They needed refreshing, she'd said;
an oxymoron at their age, he'd thought, but a powerful symbol,
the ultimate symbol. A stone rolled back
in the throaty morn and him, swathed in night's linens,
ready to eke out another day, when believing was easier.
Night had multiple thresholds
and failure was forever lurking,
God was as furtive as sleep.
Prayer fenced at the inner darkness.

He crossed himself and mumbled a few lines.
How did his unbelieving children weather those slow chiming hours?
No, one believed, and had even embraced a ministry,
though of the wrong stripe.
He'd resented it at first — impudence, rejection, envy?
When he saw fulfilment where there had been incoherence,
he'd relented and been reconciled, welcoming even
the more recondite of his son's musings.
The others, they probably slept! Plenty of time
for the interruptions of age to find them out.
God bless them now, anyway.

_______________________A final puzzle — his instructions:
no room for her, nor for them,
on his military headstone.

Paul ScullyPaul Scully is based in Sydney and has been writing poetry on and off since his teenage years, having been inspired by his father, the poet John Dawes. He has been published in several Australian journals.


Topic tags: new australian poem, lost and found, paul scully



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Existing comments

You have certainly captured the Uncle Ken that I remember and have even included my mum in your recollections. Thanks Paul.

DENISE MIEL | 29 June 2010  

A marvellous poem Paul, a poignant portrait of a man full of regrets yet clinging to a shred of hope about his life.

Gillian Hunt | 02 July 2010  

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