hardly recognise the trial—twenty-one cycles over the sun—but I know it wasn’t child’s play. ‘Are you—’ ‘Yes, Mum.’ ‘You’ll fucking die of AIDS.’ I apologised—I can only sympathise with the daily rain of brimstone, fire. In artificial air I lay on my side and scrutinised the waverings of your eye—sea-green, curious, terrified—and the contradictory Whys and the cradle-to-grave compliance. Since Friday I’ve quantified kilometres—one thousand five hundred and seventy, precisely—on a diagram, in my mind. ‘This distance requires—’ ‘Pfft.’ Ripely decided. Stupid fruit. My spine’s weak also, yet I’m acquiring the art of ballooning the diaphragm. That terrible final telephone call. ‘I’d love to be in a relationship with somebody like’—which terrorises—‘you’. Crying. Mystified: ‘Are you all right?’ Dryly: ‘Yes, I’m fine, fine, fine.’ ‘Well then, bye, bye, bye,’ you recited. Poof! Fire, water: cardinal, fixed. Our rulers Pluto, Mars; our detriment Venus. How do you survive, bonsai? Why why why won’t you actualise oomph, do you simply ogle lives through that sea-green, curious, terrified eye.
Stuart Barnes was born in Hobart, Tasmania, and educated at Monash University. His first book, Glasshouses (UQP, August 2016), won the 2015 Arts Queensland Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize. Since 2013 he has lived in Central Queensland and has been poetry editor for Tincture Journal. He tweets as @StuartABarnes.
An earlier version of this poem appeared in Communion.