The Good Life When it Happens
Postcards from museums make it seem that you exist,
but never here.
I thought I saw you going undercover
years ago: the scent of lucerne, freshly mowed
hung in the orchard where I walked to pilfer limes.
I heard the shadow of your cadence in the lowing of the cows,
and in the tone of milk from teats into the pail.
I knew your texture in the organs of the poultry that I gutted,
smelt you in the feathers plucked.
Bodies rotted nearby on the fence:
black snake and fox and feral moggy.
Falcons rode on thermals, scrutinising stubble fields.
Once, you made a raucous entrance
when a bull destroyed the fence
that kept him from the Jersey heifers.
Then you left, until I glimpsed you
in your fancy dress, in books where you spoke Greek.
There, the gods and men and women coupled
with each other and strange creatures in such fashions
as made schoolwork seem bizarre.
You changed address, and blinked out now and then
in art and plays. Shepherds sang in Tuscan
of their girlfriends’ hair and snarls.
I hardly saw you while I hacked at gorse,
lantana, thistle, brambles, burr, to make a mulch;
nor until eels I trapped were smoked by hanging
in the chimney of my cabin:
then you entered with their taste.
You go in mufti where a family waits at tables,
gossiping with regulars who sing at times,
conduct loud conversations, laugh,
and stay so late that some remain the night.
Each morning on the pavement,
business-suited men and women drink their coffee,
standing straight beside high tables,
watching trams and buses pass.
They speak of deals and set their faces for the day
while inside, older men play draughts,
touch beads, and talk of football.
Intermittently, one rises, leaves and shortly after
passes by, escorting some small grandchild off to school.
Prizes and certificates the patron won for shooting
line the walls.
His conversation runs along a stave when silence falls.
Strangers who call in to ask directions
wonder what they’re missing here.