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The long haul



Two more timorous beasties
This mouse across my pantry shelf as quick
as a mercury spill, darting behind jars
of rice and quinoa and those resigned wallflower
spices. I catch only a glimpse, but it's long
enough to learn all there is to know about terror:
the blind heart yammering triple time against
delicate ribs so the whole body beats,
eyes bulging dry in their sockets like the dead.
But never so alive, panic shooting that mouse
away from me, and, more importantly,
from my cat, at my heels, trilling and alert,
coiled. I have no idea whether it will
survive, after all, they have locked eyes.
Second beastie, even closer to home. Time
has set like jelly, it quivers, no longer flowing
downstream. I am holding on, I am only
just staying on this horse. He charged
into a canter, nose to the ground, back
legs kicking behind at saddle height — pig rooting.
I know I am all bone and blood, nothing
but pain waiting to happen. Nowhere
to escape: no poem to compose, no dinner
party anecdote, no cave wall painting. I share
this moment with all that breathes, this deep
pool of animal terror we have all skirted around.
The horse stops bucking, my teacher, sensibly,
won't let me off.  Not that I could stand,
the shaking has begun. She talks me through it,
her voice kind and with her help, I ride through it.
The mouse runs through it, the cat
always waiting, patient as the years.
The long haul
There is another life where we end up together.
We wake in the same bed, startled but not sorry;
the timber frame is warm, hand-caulked
with the day-to-day dedication of the long haul.
The air between us no longer electric, all now
sanded smooth. But whose dog jumps on the end
of that bed: yours or mine? I don't plan to think
about my husband or your wife; let's leave
my son right out of it. Fantasy, no more dangerous
than eating gelato and dreaming of Mark Ruffalo.
But when, sometimes, we brush against
each other online I feel it and I hope you
do too — you could have been my dawn breeze
and me your mast of oak. There is another life
out there, I watch it as it goes, a bobbing toy
with a paper sail, jaunty in calm weather; and wince
to see it tacking close to the mouth of the river.
The handbag
This shop always beckons. Inside, the light
is perfect, constant as an aquarium. Not
the sort you find in boys' bedrooms or Chinese
restaurants, redolent of pond scum, fish poo,
sleepy with rot. Not like that. Pulsing bright
like a screen-saver emanating light, brimful
of chemical to keep the world stripped clean.
I stop at the window, imagine such beauty
on my arm: its contours nuzzling my body
and costing more than my car. But this could
be the one home I can afford; I would belong
here with this treasure chest blinking open
and shut as bubbles shoot past. All the women
at work would see me shimmer and know.
My new card gives me air in this element, its limit
half my salary. I enter the shop, my tail swishing.
She is not a mermaid, nor a siren;
she will never be a goddess. Sitting
on the rocks in her swimming costume,
her hair wet and loose down her back,
a woman who has just finished her swim.
She loves the flex and give of her muscles
pulling her through the tug and suck
of the waves, the fierce stream of bubbles
from her nostrils surging through time,
the sun biting her skin. Now, she sits
on the rocks, thinking, like a man might.



Lisa BrockwellLisa Brockwell lives on a rural property near Byron Bay, Australia, with her husband and young son. She was runner-up in the University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor's International Poetry Prize in 2015. Her poems have been published in The Spectator, Australian Love Poems and Best Australian Poems (2014 & 2015). Her first collection, Earth Girls, will be published by Pitt Street Poetry in 2016.

Topic tags: Lisa Brockwell, poetry



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Existing comments

Beautiful, revealing writing. I can see that mermaid as clear as day.

Maurizio | 08 December 2015  

Yes, wow to all three poems. But "Seaworthy" especially.

Pam | 09 December 2015  

I liked all these very much. The Long Haul is so cutting edge.

Joe Dolce | 15 January 2016  

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