Verna Malvern

You know it’s just that every day
this wave of International Roast it
just hits me, in the common room,
and I want to run. I see a pile of
papers that may never get marked,
handwritten notes, attendance rolls,
and I just want to bolt. I navigate
classrooms, listen to the bells but†

it’s as if I’m a starter’s gun. Take
your marks, get set, then go. Mrs
Malvern! shouts the small crowd,
Peace, land, bread! As if it’s some
re-enactment, not two unit History.
Summer has stolen its march on the
end of another school year. I could
smell it on the bridge by the Creek.

Mrs Malvern. Mum. Here he comes,
turning into his father once a minute,
slouching like a fucking hat. Swiped.
And then seated. Eighteen years old.
Two weeks of exams. His first adult
Summer. Barely ready. Pretends to
read. Has got a lift to the city library
with Ralph every Saturday this year.

Later than usual, with a look on his
Face like Mt Nebo in fog. Blackout.
Won’t answer me in class. Somehow
I gave up long ago. He’ll get through.
More than I can say for some of his
mates, those two girls in particular.
What he sees in that one Mac Davis
Alone would know. Or The Shadows.

Their last high school summer day.
Zippedy. That strange feeling in the
Empty car park, experienced every
Year, like a loop of teen graduation
Footage. Drawn in for one more lap.
Each curriculum’s circumnavigation
Bringing me closer to no, didn’t buy
Any smokes. Sure Brian’s got some.

Relief’s like the change that brought
Ralph home early one evening once.
I’d support the seniors’ demands for
a smoking room myself if I wasn’t
already compromised. All they ever
go on about. Life without mum. Ha!
I can’t see the look on his face but
He’d get used to it. They’ll have to.

Hot morning. The creek swells under
its bridge, and traffic banks up along
the highway. Assembly, then lunch,
then sweet relief. House to ourselves
for the first time in weeks. Five silver
comet children, spinning out of orbit
into the bleeding Wollongong night.
Might even hear a sound of the creek.

By the old iron footbridge I watch it.
Often changes colour, a kind of khaki
tone today. Sometimes rust, or blood.
Never have followed it down to where
It meets the river, or the sea, if it even
Does. What does the creek remember
Of me, of us? How will we get through
an afternoon of revisions, corrections?

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