Ian C Smith’s work has been published in Across the Margin, BBC Radio 4 Sounds,The Dalhousie Review, Gargoyle, Griffith Review, Southword, Stand, & The Stony Thursday Book. His seventh book is wonder sadness madness joy, Ginninderra (Port Adelaide). He writes in the Gippsland Lakes area of Victoria, and on Flinders Island.
Between the Lines
After trouble in the city again, hope in ashes, I slurred back to the bleak town where we attended school, that madhouse of burgeoning libido. I think we held hands. Were notes passed? Kisses? If this cry from my heart was crime as a genre some moron might have murdered her. My brief early love. I want to save her, me, a sad-sack weltering wage-slave who never saved anything, who pays the price daily for skiving off in school, kissing instead of studying.
Perhaps she felt desperate as I did that fold in time when I arrived in the port known for an explorer who died broken. I shared a room with mice, floor sticky with human traffic, silent men slouched outside the bathroom, always staring, my thoughts of knifings, robbery. That room, paint strip-teasing, its smell of sweat, overlooked a rutted cart-track. Feverish, far from home, already far from love, I might have parachuted by nightfall into a land of strangers where war had obliterated joy, pity.
Thirteen years after school she steps back into my oh so wasted life, stark on the front page with a married name – the husband’s alibi strong – same cool beauty, lips slightly parted, jolting my meal break in this bawn near disused oil drums filled with yellowing rainwater, machinery’s crunch and clatter silenced, heart jiggety-boomping overtime. Vanished.
My own wretched wrongs slammed me into harsh terrain, these straits of loneliness, wounded, enwound in callous henchmen, drink, distrust. Though a groundling, I read, value truth, shall hide money. Words’ worth glows, runs deeper than despair. Roads can wind to the sacred edges of shelter. Feeling old before she hit thirty, disturbed by pressure, monotony’s grip, she could hitch miles of coastal road to a second chance by a sighing sea, wind wild in her hair at ebb tide, mending pain. I must stop drinking, slip more cash between scarred pages, hope we did kiss.
© Ian C. Smith