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BRENDAN RYAN

Broken sleep

We hit the smells of outer suburbs
and the weekend begins to disappear.
Waking to drivers whizzing across lanes
billboards reminding me what I have to buy,
I was having an awkward conversation
with a truck driver about snakes.
With some city friends I had kept my distance
from old footy mates drinking themselves into early graves,
in a bar lined by teenage mothers and shooters
eyeing off strangers opening the door.

I wanted you to see the back streets
that like a rubber band keep pulling me back
to desires realised outside a derelict Catholic church,
lives framed by ornamental bridges

and my self standing on a platform
watching the Station Master
wave his red flag at the fast, approaching train.
Then, as now, pine trees swayed overhead.
Their cool shadows kept me quiet
as the mystery of waiting outside a green weatherboard station
with my mother in her Sunday clothes and good white bag.

Now there is a patch of bitumen
where the railway station used to be.
It makes you laugh
that something we spend an hour walking to
doesn't exist.
But like a quiet midday drinker
who finds his seat waiting at the bar
everything here I imagined has become real -
walking to the shop after footy training
the smell of mud under my fingernails -
memories that take you closer to the dirt
to a place larger than yourself.

Here, it takes twenty-five years to become a local
or ten goals in a winning Grand Final to be accepted.
So much is lost behind the window of a passing car.
We squeeze our silences between the freeway barriers.
Ahead of us, city buildings
we swear we'll never return to
again and again.