Notes for a Picture: Falling towards the Pacific

Mary Alice Evatt accompanied her husband
HV Evatt ('Bertie') on international flights
during the war. She was instructed
to leave the plane with lifebelt and
collapsible raft if they were attacked
by Japanese fighters.
(Interview with Mary Alice Evatt, NLA)


She imagines herself mid-air with Bertie
falling at her side, their limbs askew.
The air is noisy. Now is the time to inflate
their collapsible rafts. The sheer ridiculousness
of this venture makes her laugh, which makes
inflating the yellow raft all the harder.
The ocean is a sliver of a second closer,
its skin the dark of cobalt, sometimes ruptured
to azure. Art, she knows, makes all things better.
She begins transforming the golden bundle
into the means of her salvation, pushing her arm
through muscular air towards the pull cord.

Bertie is in his element - ideals flourish
in the expansiveness of air. Her legs are flailing,
her skirt shoved awry by the hurtling force of falling.
Chunks of the Lancaster plummet past.
The pilot is now a monster, goggled, clothes flattened
by the roaring shush of air, his face forced to a grin.
By the time she arrives in the Pacific, the crew will have
the emergency rations out and she'll be in time for tea.
She will paint herself amidst blues
and yellows, and ghosted by laughter.

Lesley Lebkowicz lives in Canberra. Her fourth book, The Petrov Poems, a verse novel about the Petrov Affair, will be published by Pitt Street Poetry in March, 2013. Lesley's poem 'Notes for a Picture: Falling towards the Pacific' appears in Famous Reporter 44.