They come in a rush like children out of school.
The willow sprinting, the birch behind,
bright-lined creases looking up to the light –
an infant’s hand unfolded in mine last year.
Between my fingers a blackcurrant leaf –
a colander full, air thick with wine in my mother’s kitchen.
Come Christmas I’ll heap dead leaves to feed the buds,
my finger in Rosa’s palm, round and round the garden.
We can’t see the desert,
the red splintered hills,
only Woolworths beyond the palms.
Blasé backpackers sit barefoot
sipping coffee under awnings
between postcard racks and bush-hat stands.
A bird whistles like a boy.
Ghosts of Aboriginal people
file through the precinct, carrying blanket rolls.
They are wordless,
invisible inside their limbo
to the shoppers, diners, the white people.
A child pulls off her shoes,
throws them at a fenced-in tree,
runs to catch her mother.
In England developers are coming
for the village. Before we left
I walked over the field to the white cabins
watched a man look through his tripod.
He mapped the land. By now
the breeze blocks will be down.
The Arrernte people are heading
for the Todd River-bed, for songlines,
for gasoline. They walk all day,
silhouettes touching the sun.
They walk as if in a dream, our dream.
When the rain comes, parrots will hang upside down
and they will be gone.
Waiting for Bats
The sun crawls off, churning up evening.
Mosquitoes swim in the dimness.
They come from their coma –
mammal-kites, beetle-birds, twitching
out of cold stone. We stand and count them
as they scale the gusts, pitch themselves
at ricochets, turn us, stoop us.
One trails another in a frenzy of pairing
or rage. I cast up a pebble to break a wave,
a bat spins back, flies headfirst towards the joke
They are alive again. They have survived
the renovation of ruins,
the coldblooded walls of winter.
They go on living in dark
while we wait at the edges of light
for longer days. We can go inside,
close the blind, lie down together.
Poet and playwright Michael Crowley teaches creative writing at Sheffield Hallam University and was previously a writer in residence in a young offenders institution. His debut collection is Close To Home (Prole, 2012) and his second, First Fleet, will be published by Smokestack Books in 2016. His website is at www.michaelcrowley.co.uk