Ghost figs

by Laura Jan Shore

Once, magpies squabbled overhead

while kookaburras stared.

At dusk, our car was a boat

in a tide of cattle,

tails swishing, bitumen studded

with steamy dung.

 

The road un-scrolled to reveal

a python basking in the last rays.

We travelled slower then, windows

un-wound through a tunnel of cool,

a colonnade of silver-barked fig trees.

In the breeze, the vibrato of jade leaves,

 

and we’d pause to listen.

 

We were there on that last afternoon,

you, too small

to remember this, we met up with a surfeit of trucks

and men in orange hats.

Their chainsaws roared into life,

jagged teeth bit into bark

 

ripped through rings of ages,

ten years, fifty, a century

sliced through –

without ceremony

 

unless we, bearing witness

in funereal procession held up

by a weathered man with a lollipop stick,

were that ceremony

amidst the tremors and sulphurous air,

the pavement, a splinter of twigs, leaves and sawdust.

 

All the dairy farms are sold now.

We idle in three lanes

of traffic, the buzz of your headphones,

you, busy texting, while tourists

rev their engines

impatient for the surf.

 

Roll down the window, sweetheart,

and listen,

 

the ghost figs are calling.

From Griffith REVIEW Edition 45: The Way We Work © Copyright Griffith University & the author.