stem


by Annelise Roberts

 

I have a caravan I have to take around with me, it’s drawn from ropes around my neck. In the caravan a board or two of planked wood for putting on, a tea kettle, five layers of clothing, a glass of flowers and chequered envelopes all over the table cloth. I took the brains out of the clock with my bare hands. I fill the engine with castration fluid and screw the lid back on, let the lid fall, and wait for dust.

 

At night now. In a particular area I start to feel like I am watching. I have a choice to watch or not, and I really long to be a watcher. I don’t watch always. On the unseen aspect, just a few words: just the squash of fat and a no-no-no to be satisfied. Some thin blankets for my shoulders. The invention of whoever could see it. Because it’s not that I don’t have anything to say — it’s that I want your attention. All of you, show me your faces.

 

I have a bird called Stem. I lock it with a chain around its neck to my waist. I send it in where I can’t go and it just about always comes back, but it’s not convincing. On a final day, everything gets set clear away, mattress bundled up to the panel inside, cups stacked in rings, tape wound tight. I settle in with mobiles clanking around me. I have two whistles left in me before I whistle for the last time, I start to feel. I leave the engine.

 

Do you know — there’s a new mountain range. I don’t pick up anyone along the way. Each pass has a set of teeth razed around it and you travel through the wishbone jaw. We’ve all caught it, a fever, a trying too. Sampling. The moment I’m whistling, the woman in me bares her boobs and no-one can see em but her, but everyone sees everything else. A new powder has been developed for this.

 

No laundry in the van so I pull over at a creek bed in the afternoon and let things soak on sticks for hours while I sleep. Sleep on the white mud of the side of the creek. A ‘mean-to-do’ activity. Historically accurate. In the car the bird is absolutely beautiful with straight posture. The window is wound down for her to sing through. Sounds brassy. Five notes in a complicated scale. Don’t dare me, I crack my teeth together. Don’t dare me.

 
 

About the author

Annelise Roberts lives in Melbourne and works in disability support and research assistance. She's writing a novel for a PhD in creative writing about her ancestral connection to the British nuclear testing in South Australia.

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