IAN C. SMITH’s work has been published in Antipodes, BBC Radio 4 Sounds, The Dalhousie Review, Griffith Review, San Pedro River Review , Southword, The Stony Thursday Book, & Two Thirds North. His seventh book is wonder sadness madness joy, Ginninderra (Port Adelaide). He writes in the Gippsland Lakes area of Victoria, and on Flinders Island.
The board’s appearance beyond my high fence, though expected, startles, a braggart, brilliant interloper featuring photos touched with gold. Former Calulu Post Office, it proclaims, High Ceilings. Its festival of colour glows, warm inside and out, glory grapevine left unpruned for picturesque effect. One of 3 Bedrooms lays bare where I rest my head to dream. Detached Studio with Loft brings to mind a second-hand bookshop, old odour imbued. Verandahs, Porches twists my heart with love as artless as these framed angles are artful. Lots of Shedding conjures a wry verb.
Donkeys’ lugubrious faces peer into the lens, cue Chesterton’ poem from schooldays. Big Caravan is actually small, tyres slumped. Proximity to River, School Bus. I know, I know. 2 Bathrooms, 2 Living Areas. No mention of birds in the tall lemon-scented eucalypt on still mornings. How shall I fare away from here when I can no longer return to gather windfalls under the espaliered pear, listen to the iron tattoo of rain on spring nights?
After WW1 these small paddocks fed three families. Dread of discontinuity led to a hope the buyer might share my long-ago feverish dreams. I have hung on alone here for too many years through flood and fire. Historic Old Charmer, the brochure blares. Ah! the throb of my days. I am up for auction I jest. Nobody laughs.
On inspection day strangers note the disused doorway where I notched the growth of boys shooting up like saplings, smirking locals take selfies before coloured glass, yak on phones. Referring to my Detached Studio with Loft the agent whispers: Have you anything of value in there? He had directed a slovenly man to where I cherished hours flanked by books. Only to me, I reply, intended rueful tone sounding like the creak of an old boat slipping its moorings. He has seen these mementoes: blue-tacked schoolboy art, loosened now, framed prints, among them a $10 flea market Raymond Wintz, sentimental, typical. Of him and me.
I drove our Moke fast over the cattle grid, lickety-split, bunkety-crunch, foot poised above the brake, straight through the open doors of a former grain store that became my office, always stopping just before smashing into the wall where tyres gripped oil stains, where carpet now muffles the past’s rawness when we moved in, possessions piled in two vehicles, or was it three plus a trailer, grass unkempt, hum of insects, a wildflower forest hiding fences, our rescued dogs pointing towards freedom. I remember that air’s intoxication, the future held at bay.
My son hefts furniture, scraping doorways, narrow stairs, exposing cracks. Without archives these bared walls suggest echoes heard only by books and garage sale objets d’junk. The cats, spooked by space, prowl, trip me. With the donkeys, they shall be left with neighbours. The jack snorts, restless, kicking behind his closed gate.
Night, windows wide, the soft thud of fallen fruit. In the emptied morning my luminous digital clock shows no time, the power having briefly shut down. The whole world seems stopped. Then I make out the strain of a distant truck, laden, receding.
IAN C. SMITH’s work has been published in Across the Margin, BBC Radio 4 Sounds,The Dalhousie Review, Gargoyle, Griffith Review, Southword, Stand, & The Stony Thursday Book. His seventh book is wonder sadness madness joy, Ginninderra (Port Adelaide). He writes in the Gippsland Lakes area of Victoria, and on Flinders Island.