farewell (Saint) Patrick
Alice springs airport, July 2002;
the last time that I saw you,
smiling and waving.
Then came the moment that held all time
your eyes met mine;
and I knew that this would be the last time that I saw you, (alive)
and your eyes knew this too.
My teary gaze followed your slow ascent
into the blue skies, that carried you away.
I lost you that day
in the glint of a lingering midday star.
In the stroke-filled months that followed
I cried for you,
and for the choices adults face;
Do I fly to hold your hand at your bedside,
or my mother’s, at your funeral?
The choice made,
we spoke through faint telephone lines
that could not hide the growing delirium.
That last call, you could not speak,
and dropped the phone by pillow side.
I heard the babble of nurses in the (too far) distance
as your breath was rasping.
And I kept on talking anyway, believing
you could hear me
(because I needed to).
Twelve weeks before
we sat hand in hand
feet deep in red sand,
beneath a Bloodwood’s shade at Kata Juta.
We talked of your island,
of Mataranka in the war; you were a paramedic.
In that sea of subtle greens and massive reds
we sometimes talked voraciously,
sometimes we sat in silence, and the desert spoke in turn.
You had so long yearned, for this moment; to return.
And I shall hold it always.
So withered and small in your coffin,
skin stretched so tightly over bone.
You seemed not a man, but Mulga wood.
Gnarled and weathered, petrified flesh.
Your hands bore purple stigma,
from each failed attempt to find fresh veins.
Eyes sunken so deeply into sockets, and they tamed
your larrikin Irish brows; you were surely dead;
and I was robbed of my favourite feature.
The foundation and blush only enhanced
the sallow skin beneath; you?
How to find you, though this pretence and artifice
that is a western death, (denial).
The Cape Barron Geese farewelled you
beneath blue skies on a perfect island day.
You lay, facing out to sea
your beloved southern ocean.