I try to shut the thoughts away but the words he says prise open my every defence. I can’t not hear it. He talks about his life, his friends, the plans we’ve made, the things we’ve achieved, places we’ve been. He talks about his grandmother, about my own family history. He claims he’s talked to the bank manager. He shows me photographs of us in the pub, laughing with his mates. One of me in a dress – says I look fit. But he never once asks me how I feel: never imagines that I could be the one in charge.
The red dust came from desert skies
sanded the paper and screens of the press
caught in the eyes of conspiracy freaks
piled up the stress of Western dreams
grazed the feet of measured prose
stormed the sounds of drum and song
covered the rows of memorial crosses
and all their long-remembered losses
tickled the wings of the watching hawks
scratched the surveillance camera’s lens
scuffed the talk of the innocent doves
rendered pretend what might have prevailed
as it landed deep on these shores, here –
striking home to avenge what we began before
striving vainly to settle foreign scores
Sssshhh, said Jackie, sssshhh, listen.
Pete stopped still. Silence.
How brown the woods looked: the conifers dulled in the late afternoon light, the ground muddy after the rain.
Jackie was pointing, his face contorted into an expression – half delight, half anguish.
Pete shook his head and whispered: What?
Silence. Then a tiny sound.
Tiu tiu tiu tiu tiu tiu.
See, a willow tit, said Jackie, pointing again towards the trees.
Pete scanned the many branches but saw nothing. Silence. He shrugged:
Are they meant to be special?
You won’t miss them until they’re gone, said Jackie.