Windows & other poems

Words by Carmen Leigh Keates

Published on March 6, 2013

 

Windows

My sister was cut one
night
while dancing past a pane
of glass
no longer a window. It
was
just leaning there like a
man.

I was sick in bed when
she came in,
showing me the slashed
skirt. At my
wrist, the lavender veins
always the colour
of the bedroom, the
colour of the virus.

I remember the fence
outside the window
its tide rising just
above the sill.
There, in its wet timber
knots
always those foxes’
eyes.

Nature Reserve

We were in a nature
reserve
owned by the
airport,
filming a corporate
video
on environmental
responsibility.
The unseen vertical
extension of the runway
cut again and again up
our backs
as we hiked through the
salt-addled straw
with our tripod, camera
and esky,
trying to see how we
could make
a greenie video
out of a petrol-covered
death.

The three boys and
me.
I stayed quiet, wanting
them
to just do their thing.
To roam
like bears or
chimps,
peer at a map and use a
sextant,
and to then plan space
travel and disappear
as I stood there loving
them and keeping quiet.

One of them, I
think
it was Steve A, had a
little
magazine of German
porn.
They were all happy
that I didn’t get
angry.
I just sipped from my
bottle
of thawing orange
cordial.
There was no winning a
fight out here.

The land was so
white
it was like peering
out
of a space-rocket’s
louvre
at a neighbouring hot
star .
Or like a death
transition.
Straight from the
operating table
to the yellow deserts of
Mexico
where you’re met by
ancestors who help you
cross the burning border
to heaven.
But this was
Australia
and in the middle of a
clearing of hay
we sat in the car with
the boot
and all the doors
open
like a wasp trying to
dry.

This was on the coast of
Moreton Bay.
The sea foam so
pre-settlement
but land so dry and
invisibly irradiated,
like a fresh divorcee.
Home only now to the
slyest
insects and
sparrows

and King Brown
snakes.
And the Red-Belly Black.
We saw them
stretched on the road
like the road
meant nothing. To us the
road was
a punctuation mark, a
signal to saydrive here.
To the snakes it was just
a warmer bit.
A failed stone.

Steve B sat in the
car,
cleaning the camera
lenses.
Kaine went for a piss in
the grass
then bounded back, sure
he was stalked
by another snake. He
smoked
by himself to calm
down.

The boys were now in a
triangle,
uneven distances from me
at the middle.
Over there was Steve
A,
newly without his wife,
and tense
with the serious
girlfriend
he’d jumped straight in
with-
her text messages pinged
all day
like a depleting smoke
alarm.

We wandered.
The creeks were
shallow
and rainbowed with
fuel.
Stunted toadfish nosed
about
in the slime-coated sandy
beds.

We loved to hate what the
airport
had done. The boys
held
that we were convicts,
not settlers.

We walked to the remains
of a jetty.
Just five uneven cement
pylons
holding up the air
like a hand
gesturing
that nothing can be
done.

Our There By The Airport

Pablo from El Salvador, stout
and strong
used to be in secret
service
has work for the
police, work for customs.

Back in his country, he
tells me
he’d take two
bodyguards
just to go to a
restaurant. Yes, is true.

He’d done security at
Brisbane airport
but quit. It remind
me of home.

Between 6pm and
6am-
Girls,left in their
underwear, selling sex

in the dark flat country
by the airport
dumped with no
money.
And
drug dealers’
bodies 
(he turns
points over his shoulder
so I can see where)
with the knife in his
back.
I seen bad
things.

No, he prefers his
cleaning job at the hospital now,
though his mother cried
on the phone when he told her.

But he tells his
kids You use your head.
I work like a
donkey.
No give your live to
criminals.

Pablo tells me
You learn three
things in the army.
One: Every morning you
thank God you are alive.
Two: Hang on to your
gun.
Three:  (he cups his
hand) You pray you have the balls to use it.

He says
Here
woman have the
power.

I raise my eyebrows and
smile. Damn straight.
He kills my joke
makes an eye-contact that
is not hostile
but like poisoned water
somehow-

I see only the bottom
half of his dark brown irises
and I am scared of him.
The orange cord
of the vacuum cleaner
runs between our shoes.
No, everyone who come
here, or America, or Sweden,
he must
know:

(he pauses and watches me
like he is slowly plunging a syringe)
the woman have the
power.

When I work in
detention centre, I tell them:
I give you advice. You
treat woman like that
you never get out of
here.