Did we meet on a slow-motion bus one hot afternoon from the east coast to the Riverina – you, impersonat­ing a man from the paintings of René Magritte, that is, everyman.

For hours you didn’t open up under your grey bowler hat while the radio played Georgy Girl, Vincent, and The Rivers of Babylon.

Your reflection on the window made a tiring threesome with a doggedly stalking sun.

Then we spoke – abruptly, things unimportan­t: cattle, weather, the super jet, some good news from Paris and Vietnam.

You said you came for a niece who was “trapped in her youth” playing wild like a brumby over the evergreen hills; I thought about a runaway daughter standing on a craggy rock assaulted, assimilate­d by salt winds.

At a stop you hurried to a telephone box beside a milk bar by the main road.

A small town; they sell horseshoe-shaped glass-holders and earrings on the shelf of service station and accepted dollars and pounds; a creek ran, but not with much water.

The late-spring dandelions swaying fresh and gold in the curving grass.

I watched the dusk grow like fallow land like a halted train and you, in an astronaut’s capsule, talking inaudibly to the twilight as if probing and begging for a short ride.

Then you vanished into the bush behind the billabong.

Work, travel, motor accident, trial before dawn, ridicule among the ridicules – I read a bit of Albert Camus on the way to Corryong and spent one night in Albury.

Stars of the past centuries! – still shining, puncturing new, and fluffy! Attending a generation’s curtain call, tumble and flow from the pits above as if emerging from the reel of a Kodak film. I zoom in at a moment of an ordinary year from over a thousand years, when everyone looked harmless, calm, unreal:

Taking a slow bus from a seaboard town one hot afternoon two mute men kept each other company, beside the world; and peering into the dark the passengers waved rhythmic behind the lighted glass link and pin with a submarine or grinding their way through a sugar cane field – We were left there while they would move on calm and clear many a night into the future.


Penshurst, NSW

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