ZW16 2nd Place

Anne Benjamin

Anne Benjamin

the lawyer’s phone call drags him
sour into waking from the endless you-tube
of his trying to forget
the steel bench burning buttocks cold,
his blubbering to the man he loathed
because he needed him, to come
at midnight, to the lock-up;
to forget the fresh-ironed copper
far too white to come too close;
trying to forget the thwack,
his hand against the softness of her cheek,
her ice-eyes wary, policemen at the door.

In the kitchen, they are scalding milk
for coffee … His stomach retches.
Beside the sagging back-room couch
he sees the big black plastic bags she’s
stuffed his clothes into, last night, while
on the line the lawyer’s saying
‘You’ve stuffed up big-time, mate,
(- as if he didn’t know -)
you must move out I’m waiting at the gate
what were you thinking of?’

He makes a show of purpose,
gathers up the bags, feels his in-laws
hear him move: the gyprock in the lounge room
hold its breath …            Twelve
forty-centimetre tiles to reach the door.
He trips and curses worn-through moccasins,
studiously taking note
how cracked the driveway concrete is.
(We fell in love, we made a child.
A useless liar, is what she said.)

Outside the gate, the lawyer waits,
‘Perhaps they’ll let you see your son.
From time to time.’
He picks with bitten nails
he once kept manicured
at lint that dangles
from his fleecy pants,
kicks at the dry brown guttered leaves,
and for no good reason,
checks the letter box.