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The Town

I can remember passing through this town as a child, stopping for a pie on our way north. Now it’s bypassed – barely more than a clot lodged in the spidery veins of a map. Most of the houses are empty, the bakery is gone. I've come here again and stop to walk beneath a verandah’s pinholed shade, past the general store, the post office and a butcher shop - all shut. Behind windows, generations of dead blowflies have left a black crust piled against the glass. Some hang from webs like frozen pendulums hollowed out by spiders and passing time. Across the street an asphalt school yard is dissolving into grass. I think about the children who once skipped and ran headlong into their lives from here, where now a clapped out truck sits propped up on bricks. Dumped and stripped of worth an open bonnet seems to gape its final breath. Further up the street, the scars left by two world wars are etched in a modest memorial to the town's fallen youth. I run my fingers slowly down the list of names and whisper each into the ethereal silence in which they rest. This age has made them unreal. Elevated on the nations alters they seem unaccustomed to the height. Their age has them stalking the nearby hills, irreverent, all too young, blasting rabbits and empty beer bottles lined up like soldiers with their fathers guns. At the end of the street, a gutted church squats like a full stop to the town. Nothing is beyond except a gravel road to somewhere else and a small cemetery of lichened headstones. The last person buried here, I read, was Helen O’Brien who died in august sixty five and beside her, a year before, her daughter, aged just four. I make my way back and reach out to the ghosts that inhabit this place but can't connect. A feral cat slinks off into the shadows of the pub. Few cars stop here anymore. Thirty minutes drive away a multi laned highway barrels traffic to the coast. There, towering apartments glaze the sky where rooms, like empty shells, murmur the lonely sound of breaking waves. Sometimes there are evenings when a sadness rides a breeze from inland to the coast and goes unnoticed, except perhaps for a child who grows silent and stares at something wandering the distances way beyond the reach of grown up sight.

Copyright © | Year Posted 2022

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