Deep River Dreaming
He speaks her name often. He says it out loud to savour her, to recreate her, as we all do when we love and lose. He speaks her name aloud again and again, just to hear it, to make her company real in the kitchen where her presence shouts out its all too sudden absence: the pottery curios, wind chimes, herbs and spices, a metal lizard drilled into a mud brick wall.
He speaks her name.
It's a Pencil Day
The cod fisherman spent one day with a pencil and the other with a gaff. He knew the history. Cold blooded cod were fished for their warm oil for centuries; from Vikings to the sushi market. Wars have been fought over this fish. Their properties for preservation made them exportable in an age of subsistence and on a diet of dried cod, a particular kind of man could travel more sea miles than ever before in history. Think about that. A humble cod.
She was harrying fish out of his nets when he caught her. It was Pencil Day. He was paid to fish, as his father and his father's father were paid to fish but the rub was that this was one of the last places in the world where cod were plentiful. So he was also paid on alternate days to record all the fish he caught, and then throw them back, hence the pencils.
He wasn't expecting an angry, toothy mermaid.
When they got her on deck, the wide-eyed kid said, "Let's keep her, Boss."
"Let's not," said the fisherman as he stroked the length of her body, her skin and her scales. She snapped at him. He wondered how he could roll her overboard and into the sea.
"It's Pencil Day."
The deckie held his breath and then blurted. "Fuck it. Let's keep her!"
All the dogs in the town set up a collective howl to the sirens of the ambulances hurtling towards the jetty, for the boats that had made it in from the banks.
It's a web of stories bound up in a single strand of secret.
The scent of leatherwood and moss and running water and waves upon a beach and a ceiling of stars. Always stars. Always at night.
We clicket in the ditches like foxes, he and me, night after night after night.
Streetside we are not so easy.
Streetside all I can do is stare at his hands.
He talks to the man next to me in a cafe.
I just watch his hands and his body.
I want to be inside of him at the moment where I know the thrill of his belly against white water and I'm jealous of his hat, his hands, his easy speech.
On birthing granddaughters
And so it becomes the tangle of tubes, of tape and the beeping of monitors, of midwives clocking on for their next shift. (They all wear Birkenstocks.)
I could have done it. I would have been a contender for the perfect birth partner, until my daughter's epidural. Then I was sitting (quite suddenly) with my head between my knees. It was something about seeing a needle getting inserted into my daughter's spinal cord, mid-contraction, that felled me.
I wondered, when we lifted her from her precarious, anesthetized position on the edge of the bed to the middle, how people with drips attached to their bodies seem so unconcerned about them, and me worrying about ripping off her 'life support'.
(A dragonfly beats against a point of light on the ceiling and the black cat stares upwards.)
Driving the Ongerup Road
I was driving the Ongerup Road to Perth, through the Stirling Ranges and the sun shone sideways into my car. I drove by the salmon gums, past wheatbelt towns with their old, towering pubs, past the novelty letterboxes and roadside crosses. I was playing music, an orchestral movement with the ringing of bells. I kept on pressing repeat as the sun set and I drove into night towards Arthur River.
And the whole time I was driving, I was thinking of you. That vision of you in the loft with a thousand birds carrolling all around us this morning. The hum of bees in the mallee flowers. Your sharp teeth on my nipple. The strange departure at the roadhouse. I was bleeding, I'd been bush for weeks, my hair was matted, your kids were on the phone, we got into range and it was Fathers Day.