One sulphurous puff, then the white stick
is flicked spinning in a flare of sparks,
red globes throbbing down the harbour channel.
One vulnerable hand lifted, its sallow disclosure
pallid as the history of human error
pasted on placards, where arc-lights scatter
a brittle confetti: the florilegium of choice.
These itinerants marred by the stages of grieving
gather by handfuls at the terminus, swell into masses.
Some still bear marks of disfigurement
like mortal wounds, gashes insecurely bound,
heaped in the exhaustion of travel.
Most are older than usual, in loosely
drooping camisoles, or subsiding gowns.
A woman offers a baby she has never fed
to another for burial, passing in aura
through the mirror’s cathexis, the attendants
hunched in flag-bright uniforms,
paddling a ghost-train sleigh under the patchwork
awning of a coral tree, through scarlet petals
and tunnels of black opal. Then a steel door slams to.
John Hawke teaches literary studies at Monash University. His volume of poetry, Aurelia, is published by Cordite Press.
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