Rachael Mead has been published in literary journals in Australia, Taiwan and Ireland and was shortlisted in this year’s Newcastle Poetry Prize. She was awarded Varuna’s 2011 Dorothy Hewett Flagship Fellowship for Poetry and her poetry collection, The Sixth Creek, has just been published by Picaro Press.
Driving through the mallee
We burrow beneath the heat blanket
attuned to the air conditioner’s unsteady wheeze
like the final breaths of an terminal friend.
Cupped in the shallow bowl of mallee
we speed past scraggled trees,
lean and desperate as pioneers.
Cockatoos, Caltex and St. Vinnies
prove the pretension of borders.
We drive the hours, each town
huddled around its silo.
The hay farmers’ vast stubble fields
lay bare the hard years
distilled to monosyllables:
Cut. Rake. Bale.
The river grooves its slow meander
between cliff and forest,
cool and sweet as silty molasses.
Droplets fly in sunlit chandeliers.
We stroke. This is the day;
a meditation of movement,
traced with every muscle.
The twin blades outline endless double loops
like fingering a string of prayer beads.
I am eye and arm,
falling into rhythms
dictated by the muscles’ song.
It’s a mix of languorous reaches
sculled slowly with a tail wind
or snags dodged with swift arms
aching skin to bone.
And just when you want
to inhale the pain and drown,
Limbs click into automatic, pain drifts
disinterested as a pelican.
With each blade-splash
the sound of a soft kiss,
deeper into stillness
we stroke, we stroke.