A dual Australian-Irish citizen, Nathanael O’Reilly was born in Warrnambool and raised in Ballarat, Brisbane and Shepparton. He has lived in England, Ireland, Germany, Ukraine and the United States, where he currently resides. His poetry has appeared in numerous journals, including Antipodes, Harvest, Windmills, LiNQ, Postcolonial Text, Transnational Literature, Prosopisia, and Blackmail Press. He is the author of the chapbook Symptoms of Homesickness (Picaro Press, 2010).
Driving in Texas
A woman pushes a baby
In a stroller down the centre
Of a busy four-lane highway
As traffic speeds by on either side.
A black pick-up truck overloaded
With tools, bricks and buckets
Weaves in and out of its lane
On a narrow county road.
Three African-Americans kneel
In the grass facing away from the road,
Their hands cuffed behind their backs
As cops search their Cadillac.
A helmetless motorcyclist wearing
Shorts and t-shirt hurtles down
The freeway at ninety miles per hour
Zigzagging through heavy traffic.
Five white flower-adorned crosses
Ranging in descending order
From daddy-sized to baby-sized
Testify in the grass beside the highway.
A roadside canvas marquee bears
A hand painted sign proclaiming
Holy Spirit Revival
7:30 nightly 24/7 prayer
We killed time at the empty skate park
In Matamata, where I pretended I had
A board, running up the quarterpipe
Chucking one-eighties, sliding along
Steel rails, simulating ollies and kickflips
While your mum toured hobbit holes.
Too young to be embarrassed,
You thought I was hilarious.
Worn out, we retired to a main street café
Where we drank chocolate milk and a latte
While sharing an Anzac biscuit,
Then drove until we found a playground.
You joined in with the Maori kids,
Too young to know or care about race
Or nationality, rolling down an embankment
Into a pile of crunchy June leaves
While I exchanged nods with the other dads.
When your mum returned from the tour
We took the narrow backroads in the rain
To Te Awamutu, hoping in vain to find
A monument to the Finns. We had to settle
For Waikato Draught at the Commercial Hotel.
You sipped lemonade, too young to understand
Why we cared about music from New Zealand.