Twenty-Five, or Fifty

by Corey Wakeling

Fingers are rubbing sand off a globe.
Once clean, can consider fingering a map
a moment. I am running my fingers over places
along the north-westerly aspect of Western
Australia, along the coastline. No saltwater
crabs nipping them just yet.
             Cossack had pearls once. Do
you remember the names of
the long-dead divers? Everything bleached but
red sand. Red rusted gates, curled iron. The
barriers of the dead. The pearls, the interred,
the Sturt pea, the gas transport plant; all bleached
or disappearing.
             You are out fishing. You do not look for pearls
but eat too many oysters. You catch yellowtail and
fend off pelicans. You eat yellowtail
raw. You are both turning into the redness of
the near-Kimberley. You will both emerge from
the Pilbara like ghosts of the wetlands, bearing
nets of crabs and hot eyes. Somehow, they take you for
human again, all those strangers of the road.
             All of the unseen steps. Are you a better protector
of delicate sea-urchins now that you’re fifty? It won’t
be the last time that the vulnerable drift toward you,
colours hidden amid thorns. You aren’t afraid of the blue-
ringed octopus as you wade in his pool. Dancing
in his ballroom with your lover, I wonder if there’s
anything that you’re afraid of. Far away from you,
is there any way for me to catch that courage? No,
wandering too quickly. It has nothing
to do with the Suzie, the boat, the bus. It’s the nature
of the trip, the velocity of the intention. There is
more coastline to haunt. Why ski when you can
wander, for example?
             Perhaps that’s the difference between you
at my age and you now. There’s no need to pack up
the boat and stow it in a garage. There’s no need to
use rope when you can use your hands and scoop the
water away from you, propelling you forward. There’s
not a river that you don’t see running as your eyes
glance over the silent ghost gums waiting. Their perennial
verdure is a miracle, and yet you see no miracle. You
see storms pounding the earth with droplets the size
of heads and fists, the whole sky turning black as
it drops oceans wearing a corona of electricity and
rupture, a voice that would move mountains.

I don’t know that there’s any better
place for you than this country, where you cut the
ground to make rivers to the sea. Except, of course,
at my bedside, reading me these very stories as if I were
there, reading to me that country of
water and electricity and redness, all the words that I
don’t yet understand, that build islands and the new
storms incumbent, until I can barely hear you, until the
tide trickles in, until I’m a falling sea urchin, black
as sleep, until that voice is a whisper, because you
see my eyes drifting shut, until I feel you bring the
cover up beneath my chin, hear you walk slowly out,
and push the bedroom door to.

Corey Wakeling is a writer living in Melbourne, Australia. His work has appeared in The Age (Melbourne), Art Monthly (Australia), Cordite, Etchings, Everyday Genius, 543, Otoliths, [out of nothing], Peril, The Sun Herald (Sydney), and Yomimono, and is forthcoming in anthologies Nth Degree: Writing by Australasian University Writers and The Reader.

Back to Issue Nine: Fall 2010