The Last Hurrah – Beth Spencer

In the park at Richmond River
the ibis converge on the scraps
like clumsy ballerinas.

One bites the tail of a water dragon
who stares at me
astonished, like perhaps
we knew each other
in a past life.

Across the way
a row of Queenslanders
lift their skirts
to avoid puddles and

cars drive by, headlights on,
even though it’s 3pm (misty).

On the other side of the road
the Buck in black underpants
and bow tie sways groggily,
handcuffed to a no standing sign.

His party bursts in a welter of
fancy costumes from the bottle shop
as a passing car toots its horn.

‘Raaaayy!’ they all cheer
and head back into the shop.

Another car passes,
‘Raaaay’ calls the lone Buck
miscalculating, the lost crowd.

At the grocery store
I buy some hooks and nails
in a small hardware section
with wooden floors
that smell of my childhood

— that place, a few weeks back
where I stood at the gate
to our old farm,
the ancient post firm
and resonant under my palm
but the house on the hill erased
by the Black Saturday fires.

Just a grey smudge now
against fresh green.

The Buck bows, when I pass by,
and I bow back.

In the park I sit and
watch the river,
tracing under my fingertips
the bouquets of hearts and
initials.

(The wound of memory,
the fragile texture of cusps.)

The water dragon returns
and eyes me slowly, thoughtfully,

then lifts its tail
and scurries away.

 

(This poem was first published in Vagabondage, UWAP, 2014.)