Debbie Robson lives in Lake Macquarie, NSW Australia. She is the author of Tomaree and Crossing Paths, and has performed in Sydney, the Blue Mountains and Newcastle. Her short fiction has been published in Typishly, Cabinet of Heed, Storgy and Secret Attic 2020 , and her poetry in Poached Hare, Women of Words 2016-2109, Not Very Quiet, Dodging the Rain, Sunspot Literary Journal and Blood Tree Literature.
Earlier this six foot track was just
a pamphlet and now I am walking
on the dashes between “d” and “f”
on the Land’s Department map.
Loose stones under my feet, the sun
colouring the grey-green hillside
yellow as I walk where once,
two men moved ahead with a
wheelbarrow, pick and shovel
keeping the way clear for me to
track their slow retreating forms
all the way to the Cox’s River.
Now in the afternoon light it is
a chocolate box painting of pink
sand, white rocks that seem
still wet from the artist’s brush.
Perhaps he remains here, sitting
by the scrub near the next hill.
I applaud his work but need
to walk across the stream and touch
the rocks to find them wet and hard
not shimmering in a haze of perpetuity.
The river, the hills, Gibraltar
Sugarloaf stretch about me, an all
encompassing canvas of one person’s
evocation. But I can’t find the way
across such a slippery stream where
even the pines are losing their hold,
roots revealed, gnarled after years
of gentle undermining. Two sheep
are stranded on moss, standing firm
on their small island in the middle
of the river, looking as lost as I feel
in the past, the recondite and reality.
Thin palings of a picket fence
shimmer in the air sometimes.
Is the church still there?
or at least its permutations,
Hymns echoing down the years.
When the trees on the hill
rearrange their branches
in a slight breeze, there is
an emptiness despite dense
foliage. A space that can’t
be crossed over or built upon.
And in the shopping centres
bricks and mortar rear up
in the summer sun implacable
but underneath, somewhere
are sandstone blocks, mud huts.
Dig deep beneath our concrete
overlay and you will find
these ghosts, negatives in our
positive world that once exposed
can never be reinstated. Only
to be seen again in photographs
or recalled by elderly memories.
Yet there is a ripple in the river
where the punt used to cross
a hundred years ago. And trailing
the deep veranda the white petals
of a banksia rose glow pale
against stories of towering glass.