Monday, 2 March 2020

Interlude 3—Last Call

A missed opportunity to ask questions

Last Call—Melbourne Airport, January, 1985

“Last call for Flight 16.”
To where? 
My future,
hopeful, solid, imaginable,
a chaos of children,
journeys unforetold.
Your past?
Unfamiliar, ethereal, strange,
a different world
that I can never know.

“Will passengers proceed through Gate 3A.”
I must go
while you recede through memories of 
magic ships in deserts—port out starboard home,
bridge, 
chota pegs beneath the waving punkah,
Mac, rabid enough to leave his teeth 
imbedded in your gun, 
great quakes of snaking rails, broken earth,
rescued infants in the Ayah’s arms,
hailstones large as tennis balls,
tiger hunts and ponies gored by pigs unstuck,
and freedom, dohti-wrapped, that sent you home.
To what?
Sad memories of childhood loneliness
half spent in icy Fettes baths
before apprenticeships to rule,
hotels unvisited so long they must be but a dream,
shipyards dying of old-age,
used cars and ironmonger’s shops,
and this and that,
until again the loneliness returns.

“Complete a customs form.”
Declare my memories
of one who loomed so large he could do anything,
although that “damned bad hip” precluded any games.
Not true,
you taught me chess, whist,
to never blink at a royal flush,
to see the world as something magical,
how to fix a car,
to hold a silence which could sometimes scare me more than any fist,
and how to live within myself,
you, who only really came alive
when conversations turned to thoughts of yesterday
across the world.

“I wish to hell I could come with you.”
No.
There’s just this one embrace,
the only one in forty years,
awkward, forgiving
a tear
no
look away
security is beckoning.

My father stands
a heavy shape 
stick-propped
with only that damned cancer
for a friend.

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