In the pitch darkness of a dream
it is the type of shadow you can depend upon.
A conspicuous feature as seen from the headstones.
Visible from all angles
it towers over cypress plantations,
milkers following a trail of silage across a paddock.
I remember a ribbon of fire skirting the north-east ridge
and my disappointment the first time
I took in the view of Kelly’s paddocks.
Years latter, parts of my family were enveloped
in fog as we tramped upward
past cattle troughs, ferns and lichened rocks.
It was as if we had been finally accepted
by something we had been staring at
our whole lives. There was no view
we were stuck with the people we had become.
It is only in memory that I lose my place
and the mountain begins to rise up
like an image taking shape in water
shadowing me across paddocks
until it owns me, until I return
to finally see the mountain for what it is.
It’s not the beaten path that led
to the burner or hurrying in rubber boots
from the dairy to put the tea on.
Nor is it the stick she used
for heaving washing into the spin dryer.
It’s more the way the wind
filled the sheets on the clothes line
and then ushered in each night
blowing ash down the chimney.
Summer nights, walks after tea
two figures dwarfed by paddocks
walking down to the river
walking down through their children.
Her day, framed by washing clothes
a view of the tank stand beside the dairy.
Shivering, she wakes to wedding photos
and knick-knacks on the mantle piece –
all the objects she needs to belong
reminding her of who she has become.
A trophy house with strange trees,
neighbours so close they keep their blinds drawn.
The streets surrounding her are pocked with retired farmers’ wives
their weeks arranged like dinner settings.
She keeps her distance from the kitchen window
wondering what to do if he comes in
from the out-paddock and finds her
dabbing at crumbs on the kitchen table,
a habit religiously maintained over forty years
cannot locate her. Each day she loses hours
the way her mother lost words in a nursing home.
It’s not the women who used to pop in
for cups of tea, it’s not the farmhouse
and those days without hot water.
It’s more the woman he used to know
lost in the lounge room
somewhere between the paddocks and the TV.