Fiona Britton is a Sydney poet and writer. She was the 2010 winner of the Shoalhaven Literary Award and the 2011 joint winner of the Dorothy Porter Prize for poetry.
The tune of us
had I hands to write it
six-four time over a Balinese tinkle,
but I dream on, handless
inventing skip-beats (tha-rip) to pass the time.
I curve, acoustic,
for twenty six bars
of held breath —
the underground score
of an opera for insects:
my green grocer
my black prince, tap-dancer.
I tunnel out and count myself in.
you made your way on mass
sideways like sandcrabs
a ragged collegium,
full of fight and righteousness
shouting fond arguments
tugging at each other, tumbling
towards the isthmus
across that line you wouldn’t cross alone.
Great numbers meant great courage:
you ventured together
and accumulated faith.
The sun — celestial diplomat —
shone down ultraviolet
and gilded upturned faces
(friends, your sweet lips split,
the fresh skin pinked and puckered).
The wind grew calm:
evidence, you said —
such small miracles
will soon be handed down as fact.
Differences extinguished in the noonday bright,
you stopped your yelling
and prepared for a single, quiet truth.
Back among the blackened mangroves
beside the grey teeth
of the broken jetty
the shadows grow long,
At this remove
I hardly recognise you, friends.
Voices carry, high as baby birds’ —
gannet, egret, gull.
I listen but the wind snatches words.
Newborn and dismayed,
you turn in circles.
I grow mandibles; I digest things
here without a people,
I am bearded, brackish and alone.
New trunks thrust up
like stubby thumbs, from the mudflat.
Here I build a hollow for a heretic
where I can think,
kick the dripping boards;
dispute and come unstuck,
and let the biting insects
have my blood.