Brenda is a Sydney writer and artist, of Aboriginal and British descent. She has had work published in journals anthologies and on the web. Her poetry readings have been broadcast on ABC RN and 2MBS. In 2008 she won the NSW Society of Women Writers Poetry prize. Brenda plans to publish her first collection The Sound of Red in 2010
Under the net
He is a man without a shadow
living in the park. Humid nights hiding
behind the kiosk. Or in the undergrowth
his dark shape spread on ivy. He wakes
to the murmur of couples leaving
a well-lit path: footsteps on the grass.
Settles to the steady roll of traffic.
Christmas lights. Possums sparked
to an all-night frenzy in the giant trees.
The shaft drops him into old territory
an open vault. Stale air. He waits
as the cold closes in, counts his steps
along the rail, unsteady on flint.
Hands trace a line to a corner place
at the end of a walled-in tunnel.
He lies awake, listens to the sound
of his breathing against the whirr
of trains. Heading into blackness.
He comes at me. Side on. The weight of metal
pressed at my side. A hand clamps my mouth.
He breathes one word, up close. Move…move
There are men on the ground, a gate swinging
I am deaf to any thought of protest as the bag
covers my head. It smells of fermenting hay
hot against the lids. I listen to the men shouting
in strange accents, count each turn out of town
senses on high alert. We drive for hours. Stop
when the air is cooler. Maybe it is already night.
Blind Man’s Bluff at a half-remembered party
Arms search empty spaces for familiar shapes
a friendly voice. Now I wait for some command
to shuffle forward: like an old woman shackled
by pain. A baby stepping onto new ground.
Sounds carry when you’re closed in, bare feet
on mud-brick. A square, three paces each way.
I have learnt to be attentive to every variation
strain to catch familiar phrases under the door.
When a guard raises his voice I hold my breath
tighten the little fears, mouth dry. A water bottle
anchors my hands, roped against risk of slippage.
Clothes cling heavy under waves of midday heat
its prickly light penetrates my roughcast prison.
Only night loosens the pressure under the mask.
Or the touch of water. One small escape allowed
for daily bathing, to absorb the playful splashes
on skin and hair: fill a chasm inside me. Waiting
for the barter, like prized sheep penned at night.
Back and forth a mobile’s ring tone sets the price
of freedom. A pause in the skirmish: long days
trading this body for comrades held like me in
some other place. Waiting for payment. Funds
exchanged for my ordinary life, already pledged
long ago to their distant cause. Sight unseen.