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Verge 2017 – Chimera

4

Don’t Touch the Billabong

Callum Methven

When the lights flash red and blue

kids split like rotten fruit once more

another generation stolen,

falling through the same machine

whose fingers clutch the winning hand.

You said to close the gap

before the draught blows through

it’s cold outside, you told me

throw the billy out with the water,

when the storm was over you asked me

is it summer this far south.

Waiting on the corner when the curtains draw

you see men and women

wearing blindfolds, fill the streets

with empty taxis and you grasp:

no one minds the spectre of the cloth.

Bedtime stories drown the din

of crying kettles and such things

as footfalls wake the dying

from their slumber. I’ve never seen

a mother fall so hard, but harder still it is

to make a grown man say sorry.

The black line stretches

from coast to coast, she casts no shadow.

None but the one that stalks us still

until we make it to the edge of the frontier.

This statue’s hat is heavy like his spade

our buried memories rot like bodies in the sun,

and when the war was over you asked me

is it winter this far north.

By the by I saw a girl

she had an older woman’s eyes,

she blew the candles out and made a wish:

to wish upon a seven-pointed star.

She was happy in her dreams

before we came and kicked the castle,

before she realised that

lesser ghosts than you and I

have haunted better men.

Waltzing through a hole in the ground

their stone lungs sigh ghosts of gold,

their haunting strikes it rich and so we sing:

but none can hear eureka in the dark.

If he were to strike it rich

it would not quell the hunger,

for the hunger only lives beneath the skin:

we tied a cape around our necks, we missed the mark.

By the by I saw a skeleton so small

it rattled around in my skull forever,

and skulls are bones, are puppets in a gale

and when the gale is done the smell persists:

well tell the kids don’t touch the billabong.

The river runs a race that none of us can win

and when we lose the fish will swim upstream

amongst the dead, so spread the word:

don’t drink the water from the billabong.

If forgetting is the remedy for troubled sleep

then to remember is a sip of toxic water,

so tell the kids don’t touch the billabong:

you get too close, you just might see yourself.

Verge 2017 – Chimera

   by Bonnie Reid, Aisling Smith and Gavin Yates