you crowd into city corners, clipped back. the odd one unmeasured among highrises. you expand in forests over vast continents of the north in perfect contingencies. I had to learn to step away from myself, be the adult, the one who could be ignored. you grow, releasing your restless leaves as a kind of background music to change, survival. I thought I’d missed the turn off or the straight line never materialised. I had a voice in my head that didn’t like me. you have the air to feed. you are the throats (however small) of the earth. days I thought I was drowning, tugged a hundred ways into rear view mirrors. you aren’t looking down at the ground, watching where you are going. don’t go down to the river at all, do you hear? told you not to pat them, they’re working dogs. only your brothers are allowed to shoot. I joined the stream of cars flooding the city. you prepare for extremities on this continent, extend your roots in case of drought, scatter seeds in times of fire. I took my sister’s ashes back to the river. one brother buried beneath a plaque in a yellowing lawn nearby, the other driving the ute. her grey ashes fell in a clump, stuck to the dry rushes. barely a trickle to carry her further. red gums crippled on the muddy banks. driving back down the highway, a row of poplars in a bone dry paddock tapering upwards as if in prayer. you don’t demand anything. you share the light and the shade.
Alana Kelsall is a Melbourne poet. She has won the Ada Cambridge poetry competition and been shortlisted for the Newcastle and Rosemary Dobson competitions. Her chapbook, the distance between us, was published by Melbourne Poets Union. She is working towards her next collection.