Englishman in the Outback
Ink in night, the scent of sulfur. Fumaroles and the earth’s breathing steam. Our eyes straining to see the lake’s waters, when there is nothing to see, no line between horizon and water. He has lost shoes, a child, the sense of longing. A trail of red flowers runs behind us. No one understands how, and the petals float on mud, rising. In loneliness, the human heart expands. Widening, breaching until there is a space hollow enough for a tall bird to enter, to peck at things, rearrange, snip away waste. The bird can sense the palpable ache, the worn-out trekking boots, the way he will sleep for twelve hours in a row of endless days. While he is asleep, the bird will do flips in his heart, will bake comforting foods for him, tweak his proper British accent. Strange words will come out of his mouth in the morning. “Kitty-corner,” he will say, like an American. “Going woop-woop” he will say, pulling on his worn boots, heading out into the Aboriginal bush, past the snakes, the wallabies, the steam of shaking women who have forgotten how to breathe. They lean precariously over quivering holes in the earth. He will carry the bones of his body for days, waking. Even mud can boil and create noise. The bird in his heart will sleep in this time, and he will be lost in the Outback, where the latch of his cage breaks at last.
Ginger Knowlton's writing has appeared in publications such as Bravado, Double Room, 5_trope, the Bark, Marginalia, Many Mountains Moving, Segue, Swerve, Sentence and Tarpaulin Sky. She has received awards from the Academy of American Poets, has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize (2007) and more recently served as writer-in-residence at Massey University, NZ.