On a hot day
something went wrong. My brother
cleaning up a paddock
pushed fallen timber into piles with a tractor.
Under the sun
the machine laboured on.
the hood a greasy gloom, a spark somewhere,
a sudden fire
divining reservoirs of oil and diesel,
lines wet with fluid.
spilled across the engine block
and the cabin filled with smoke. Exploding tyres
boomed through clouds
the trees of crows. Burning plastic sickened
the air. His wife
working another paddock
and saw the black smoke rising. She fixed
her eyes on it
while the boys clambered into the ute.
‘What is it?’
Her face shut like a gate.
From the brow of a hill they saw the tractor burning,
in sight—no father.
They came on, the last yards hardest; the chance
of him appearing
Was that a blackened shadow in the cabin?
Heat pushed her back.
Rounds of wire hung loose on rims like bracelets
on a wrist stripped
of flesh. She gripped
the boys—but could not speak
And what was that written on her children’s faces
that flung them
into whorls of silence?
O god, let it not be so.
The sky leaned close—a ghostly breath.
ran up the white flags of surrender. And there
strolling over pasture. The boys broke
and ran—crying—into his arms.
Yet the landscape
—spare and silent—
held fast the awful tract she’d yet to cross—to feel
flesh pressed against her flesh.