Maria Takolander’s poetry has been widely published. Her first book of poems, Ghostly Subjects (Salt 2009), was shortlisted for a Queensland Premier’s Literary Award in 2010. She was also winner of the inaugural Australian Book Review Short Story Prize in 2010, and has recently been awarded an Australia Council grant to develop a book of short stories, which will be published by Text. She is a Senior Lecturer in Literary Studies and Creative Writing at Deakin University in Geelong.
The goat fished from the old wooden jetty. A hangover, he thought, was a state of mind, like the stench of the slimy pippies on the hook, the pull of the dirty tide on the line. He wiped the residue of the bait onto the tangled fur on his flank and picked up the thermos lid of coffee, cold as the dawn. The sea, he mused, always made him philosophical. A couple of pelicans had settled on the peeling roof of the only boat moored among the mangroves, tucking their beaks into the rancid feathers of their backs. From time to time the goat saw their eyes, rimmed like a drunk’s, move to watch him. It was no use; his bucket was empty. The fish, it seemed, had cleared out of this place. There were mud-crabs, exposed at low tide like rickety bones, and the usual detritus of birds. The landscape, though, had found a way into him. It was something his wife had never understood. Sitting in the deck chair, the goat rested the rod between his pressed legs and poured some more coffee. He heard the sound of the slick water on the hull of the broken-down boat, weighted by the pelicans. He swallowed some of the foul liquid and noted how the mangroves had spread. They were secretly closing the place in. A seagull flew down from the anonymous sky and landed on the boat’s stern. Its orange claws hooked the taffrail, and it began to vomit sound from its neck like something jagged and material. The goat pitched the fishing rod at the bird. The pole landed on the oily water like a praying mantis. The seagull stopped and looked at the goat. Then, with unblinking eyes, it took up the screeching again. The goat, casting his chair and thermos into the sea, began to bleat and bleat in return.
She could not be said to think, but standing alone she was bothered by the vast movement and sound of the grass on the plains as the night bloodied the day. When the world yielded and was swallowed, she pressed herself to the hard dust, holed among the rocks with those of her skin and smell and hair and blood, and rubbed herself from fear in the hot place she knew until the wind swept through her. When she opened her eyes she was yet in the ravenous night, among the flesh and sounds of her kin, who were all given to the night within, and far from being riven by the thrill of the wind her body was quiet as a beast with its throat cut.
The day disturbed her with hunger like flint, so they trapped a young beast and held it down and razed its neck again and again until it bled and stopped moving. Her teeth were made for tearing. She took rest on the spoiled grass with the blood and flesh of the beast on her hands and tongue and on those to whose blood and flesh she belonged. There were the sky creatures, ragged as the carcass beneath their floating, and behind a strand of thirsty trees the sloping dogs. Then came the rustling night, always wanting more than the light, and as they fled through the gloaming plains it struck her that she was not afraid but whetted by its unending hunger.