Behind Orana Takeaway – Rico Craig

              We’re out of the rain, hunched around
                a feast
five dollars worth of chips
     ripped open on the concrete,
                 you’re breathing loud vinegar snorts,
             licking your fingers with savour.

    Taliyah grins at your glister-eyed hunger,
                  looks at the clotted skin beneath your singlet, she asks
                                              to touch your scars.
When you don’t answer she eyes me, ‘How long’s
       he been deaf?’
      My answer is another swallow of chips.

You’re looking away at passing cars, don’t see
                          her question.

I watch her reach toward your scars.

                            behind the shops

                                     the smell of dirty grease
                                     rain on concrete

           Her fingers are fearful at first
                                   like your skin is molten
                               and the shiny flesh will pull away
                                      all sticky on her tender nails.

I’m the only one who knows your story

      We’re playing cricket in the rain;
                                                       you bowl
                                                                I slog;
          the tennis ball fizzes over parked cars.
                          You turn tail and trot
                                                    out beyond the gutter.

    White Holden

      You don’t see
             the car come around our corner, your turn
                                                                                   tail trot steps onto the street.

    White Holden
  always seeing
                         White Holden
           always seeing
   your body
         a candid stillness on asphalt.

                 The car doesn’t stop, I’m the only one who hears it speed away.
       You open your eyes.
   Your back is a tale of gashes,
        the delicate armature of your ears
                                    has been disordered. I can’t read the strange, silent
  terror your mind has been thrust into.

    You stand and leg it,
      run without looking back
        like it was you who did wrong.

          For minutes I fail to follow,
       enough time for you to run up a walkway
          into the streets beyond.

            I search, alone
       I search for hours. I search until

   I find you in the stormwater drain
                   the shadow tunnel under our streets,
                                     we’re not meant to come here.
               You’re bent forward, hunched
            with the concrete curve. A stream of water runs
                        around my ankles. There’s blood
                    leaking through the holes ripped in your shirt.

         I yell an echo past your figure,
     you don’t turn, intent on a lithe shape
                      nestled in your palm,
                            some charm you’ve given yourself into.

     I’m thirsty, more thirsty than I’ve ever been,
          and I kneel to drink the silty water running over
           your feet. I swallow what I can in handfuls,
it tastes like the days we live through. I yell again,
                     my voice echoes away.

     Closer, I see movement in your hands
      a protean, reptile shimmer. You look up.
              In your palm a skink bites silently at air. I speak,
        you don’t answer. You’re gentle, thumb
           cocked behind its neck, stroking its spine.

  You pass the skink to me.
              The heart patters against my palm
                                                   you quiver like a falling kite.

I’m the only one who knows your story

    Taliyah’s fingers settle on your scars, rest there
       like it’s better than chips.

                            behind the shops

                                     the smell of dirty grease

                                     rain on concrete

You’re still, biting the air,
         not turning to see her words
    as she says
     his scars feel like scales.


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