Image: Faye Goodwin (1931-2005)
Ian C Smith’s work has appeared in, Amsterdam Quarterly, Antipodes, Australian Poetry Journal, Critical Survey, Live Encounters, The Stony Thursday Book, and 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.
Police informer’s last rites
He imagined eyes watching him.
Through the scarred blind he looked about
the concrete yard, saw nothing different.
The exposed front door was the only
way out, down the hall, past other lonely
lodgers’ rooms. He chewed his uncooked
meal, swallowed each dry mouthful, reviewed
the plan, convinced nerve was held by
sticking to routine. He rinsed the plate
rehearsing in his mind. He would hate
to slip up. He switched off the heat, checked
the time, opened the door, stared both
ways along the dead street without
turning his head. He knew all the parked
cars. At the corner phone a dog barked
a forlorn cry from a base animal.
Its echo raked those mean alleys like
a sinner’s prayer, a treacherous lie.
Then the unseen car that would be found
burned, the gun, window down, that awful sound.
They grew silent in the rain after I found him
as if clues were an embarrassment.
Gulls cast shadows over the man
or what he had become, all memory gone
foetal-shaped near the cannery
lying next to a length of sodden rope
curled, soot or ash or blood-soaked
an S, a warning, a signature?
He must have run my route for fitness
downriver, towards the estuary
away from the mini-golf and motels
instead of running, like me, for survival.
Like me, he wore cheap running shoes
his beard neatly trimmed like mine
the same arm tattooed, a faded eagle
our eyes that shade of staring blue.
The plainclothes goons exchanged looks
the paramedics, too, but not with me.
I have to find a different route.
The postcards I can’t send my children
are black with tiny words of loneliness.