Shadows by my side

misty callum rock

A manic magnification of all that’s good and peaceful.
Lame goats are tight-ropin’ through treetops with one hoof a-dangle
as I lay tangled in the tundra almost frozen – still – crystallised
then Ol’ Meg roar roar roaaars again,
shaking me from my cocoon with smokestack cataracts
fogging past as coal cool cold won’t let go and my toes wander off
to some other place and I chase through the red-nosed glow
of Lake Gunn’s fur-strapped soldiers, seizing and stretching
until my chest is one large canopy of snapping twigs and forest grunts,
offered up to something beyond the shadows of the treetops and
– can we stop? I really need to pee –
can’t you see that I’m running on empty? and no alpine racketeering
can steer my soul from the toilet bowl of a glacial troll under the very next bridge and
[I can’t breathe]
nor believe the price of petrol or the pecked at entrails
of some poor possum – a villain – a fiend
with the sheen of a seven-foot mustache-twirling man with a plan:
ideally not to have it’s innards raised to unfathomable altitudes,
their path to choose and theirs alone, flown here
in their great canoe like you or me, or half of these 1080 poisoned trees,
but there’s something here beneath the seeds of endless
Polaroids and Hollywood hemorrhoids,
a whisper, a bark, maybe even a command:

Come hither to the mountain-top
and bask in my embrace.

A woeful sound like a drug-ballooned clown
rattling his chains and – one last honk – before
the showtunes stop and he must join his possum pals
in the land of self-determination, but I feel something there
and I stop.

That voice, a familiar air, the tongue of Christmas pudding
and home-sliced ham, no man but a sweet feline soul,
slinking off the mountain, curling and purring in my steam-engine core,
she saw me those last little moments, I know it,
when her mind did go but the animal remained, trained in its old tricks;
and, “I know it’s her,” some lone quiet ape chirps in my rib-cage,
crashing its cymbals for not much applause, so I go
to the mountain and climb through star-spangled spinifex
and motor-cross cows and I find a rocky crop
where I sit and stare – but where? – there is only postcards and empty jars
of what appeared to have been some fine recipe, now
broken and bare (I stare and I stare), but all I receive
is a breeze through the trees with intent to impale
my frail limbs in some great crucifixion, and those soft mountain brooks burn sweet
down my cheeks and – you don’t get this view every day of the week! – but I do
find you there, my old broken mare; your hair falls over the pine trees bare,
frozen and gleaming in some silver splendour – “no, do not speak,
conserve oxygen” [but I’m not sure if I can stand to wait
another day, watching your eternal decay decay decay] –
with a rockslide, an avalanche, my kin’s tree with a fallen branch
crushing that tiny hillside shack where all that is
lacking is oil fracking, if not now then soon –
there is always more that could be pruned, like a bald-cap,
a paddywack, give Uncle Death a bone for soon he’ll roam
down the trail, across the tree, those pale fingers combing
the seaside glances of my mother’s salted face.


Is it never enough? Forever followed by this bloated baboon,
dragging their knuckles, shoulders spasming with
that dopey look of orgasmic euphoria stretched along
their cosmic snout – leave her alone – Please, she is all I have.
I’ve grown and I can no longer count the number of times
I was deaf to those old wooden chimes that ran to grab
a band-aid or closed inside my lunchbox – handmade
from that leathered smile above with those [growing] creases –
but I could never outrun the love that she sends; that permeates
my dreams and ends with me sobbing to that
childhood vigil, holding fast to her sigil and praying
in a tongue of my past to that sturdy mast I’ll never outgrow, that she gave
to the mountainside-mare, up there, her old mother bear,
echoing past old narcissism – shining through
this lonesome prism which bends and refracts until nothing is kind
but, am I certain it is you?

Is this not some gruesome mockingbird I heard,
that projected through my spectral form? Shorn
of that song, that old sweet melody – how ARE you DARling? –
the beats and the rhythm, a common chord progression and a gasp-
ing incantation that lowered one into that nice warm bath,
a half-sought interpretation that brought me here…
where there is no laughter, no waterbirds or cattle-herds,
just that nibbling on my thigh that wanders up
my torso, a siren dragshow, luring me in – for who? – or – for what?

Nibble turns to bite, my chest becomes tight – a romance – trapped
beneath its foresight, it’s alright – all bright snowy shores
lapping at my ankle – or so it was, as those dark brooding shackles
float in just over the pines, those last signs of life – and where is my friend? –
or where did I leave him? – it all blurs together
and I no longer hear anything, no song or no rhythm,
just the chatter of teeth pounding like small ivory jackhammers, drilling
a hole through my skull – and is this my time? I guess she
would not have to bury me, but the uncertainty – her leather turned
dark and pruned – too soon? I’m not sure – but there lies the door,
swinging through those booming black sheep with sinister baaaaaaaaa –
hanging from something fine, some old string – perhaps it’s mine –
in one final pendulum as I lie fettered with three bags full,

It’s time.
It’s time.

You cruel harlequin, you foul fisherman, you tapered me in through the hairs on my chin I’m yours I suppose, but before it swings close, I must know – why here? why now?

I’m sorry child, I did
not stitch your
You form a demon
an old man has

I feel your pain, I
it all, I’m an
phone-line that
nobody called.

That was not my
but your
I am just a harvest
of the seeds you’ve

Tell me, where is
your friend?
Where does he lie?
Why didn’t you
when that old lady died?

You made this
you bore this weight.
You’ll see her smiling
when I seal her fate.

Now, come hold to
and hold fast, for it is
my line, but your
line cast.

You will find
what you have
An eternity of
An eternity of


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