Image: Charles Conder, Bronte, Queen’s Birthday (1888)
Ian C Smith’s work has appeared in, Antipodes, Australian Book Review, Australian Poetry Journal, Critical Survey, Prole, 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, Tasmania.
Glass half-full fly-in reader
Hope ascendant, he absconds to the islands,
peering down on remote boats he loves unaccountably,
colonies of birds crying out from clifftop ramparts.
Islanders are permanent, visiting, droll, silly,
greedy, he thinks, like him deep down, like most.
He abjures local lore, jokes as if in agreement,
always an outsider playing an inexact role,
irked by drum-bangers yet up for short-term adoption
by the funny bone deficient, asset laden, left-wing,
mutinous, quasi-attractive, and suspect scarred.
Smug contagious xenophobia depresses,
unintentional arse-baring he tries to avoid,
sidestepping invitations for the solace of books,
first things packed, page after page of privilege,
provender for life, late learning won hard.
Wracked by a relationship disappointment,
he reads Wojahn, Gilbert, the heft of life,
clarity of half-light, sea breeze, pages rustling.
Through a theodolite, future clouded
A surveyor, my pal, sights on a range pole,
sees me, shorts, boots, nail bag, tanned,
waiting for directional hand signals
in grassland where a freeway shall progress.
Peg sledgehammered, then the tapped-in nail,
I measure on, pole over shoulder, in my demesne,
uneducated, beyond the worst of youthful trauma,
so I believe, when a nesting plover attacks.
A laughing voyeur, he sees my antics
early on this day before my evening class later,
study still novel, future traffic a naïve faith,
no accidents, tumult, only smooth passage.
We park the land rover outside a shopping mall,
munch hamburgers, recce unwary lunchtime girls,
when we spot a distressed mother, her child lost.
We separate, decency kicking in, jogtrot.
I have name, age, description, no luck,
a flutter of failure, then see him astride an elephant,
kid-broke but riding free on his imagination
as I, abruptly uneasy, approach.
He likes my softly softly style, comes quietly.
A relieved mum bestows heroic status on fathers
of the next century when grassland becomes memory,
late back for work, sobered, as time races us.