When we were little, winter went on
forever and it was dark. At night
the ceiling was a frieze of tricksters,
corners dense with unspeakables.
That they did not exist for grownups
was no comfort to me at all.
In the morning off we went to a school
as feral and perverse as that dream world —
we three sleepwalkers who'd cleaned our shoes
in the land of Polishes Laces,
the fertile universe invented
by little sister, the most distracted of us.
On the bedroom door Dad's stockwhip hung,
icon of his past ‘in the bush’ (whence too
the Saturday morning rumble
of Banjo Patterson); and icon
of the loser's rage thoughtlessly
visited by father upon son.
Those were the fifties, and I am now the age
my parents were when they seemed old:
at night taking out their teeth,
carrying their reading glasses,
warming themselves with their opinions
against the bleak incertitude.
Though nothing happened it was like a myth —
that time of bad dreams and inchoate feeling
I chronically return to as a source:
as if it were a riddle I could read
backwards to the present to understand
how we create the love we need.