Last Day of Leave

He’s going this afternoon
bound for Brisbane
then Afghanistan
for eight months – this time.

I watch him from the window
playing with the dogs
cradling the cat in his arms
lying on the lawn

between his father’s vegetables
and my roses
a small boy again
in our child-safe, high-fenced garden.

Now he’s bringing in his washing
packing his bag, checking paper work
(car insurance, banking, tax)
returning to adult business.

His bag is in the boot
it’s time to drive him to the airport.
A chill sea-breeze is blowing
but he’s dressed for summer

in shorts and T-shirt
for the journey north.
There he’ll put on uniform
rejoin his infantry battalion.

We’re driving and he’s chatting
reviewing Christmas Day
reliving fishing trips
revealing plans.

Talk lapses as the car noses
into the final stretch.
He breaks the silence:
Please don’t wait, just drop me here.

My words fall unspoken
on the cold pavement.
I hug him close.
He’s gone

yet still I see him
playing with the dogs
cradling the cat in his arms ...

Other poems by Liz McQuilkin

Five Senses of Distaste
The Bride
Word Music