Canvas Calendar

Canvas Calendar
(for Avis and Jack Parry)

He utilitied around the spur, springs sagged
by netting fencing and a wag of dogs.
A heel-squat conference later he slammed in
and barked off- kelpies leaning on the wind.
He left a row of stick-scratched diagrams
a ringing silence and
a can of water  poured from dust-encrusted bags.

 *

It had the gagging tang of tepid twine.
Yet other flavours lingered there  –  to me
it tasted like December on a train
(when station-platform water-bags had chained
pint pannikins) or water-bags that rode
on block-trucks hauling loads
of fruit to packing sheds. It smelt of harvest time.

Or drying apricots when mid-day eased
scorched mornings into coppered afternoons.
A blend of copper fruit and sand and haze
invaded those braised  January days
and sifted scents of sun and sulphur through
rough-rafted, straw-thatched roofs
where shaded water-bags swung sweating from the eaves.

A taste of February too, dust stained
and gritted like stooped pickers between rows
of battered dipping-tins and sagging vines.
A sticky, snipping, finger-bandaged time
of vine-leaved sandwiches and bottled tea.
Then water-bags in trees
hung wired where swamp-gums shadowed creaking
dipping-frames.

And then March memories seemed to wreathe around
that haunted water. Stillness in the air
that cooled and yellowed long before veined leaves
turned parchment. Racked and dried sultanas breathed
in faint, fermented whisps through hessian screens.
Neat quiet drying greens
silhouettes of water-bags lengthened on the ground.

*

And when they asked what kept me I explained
that I was held up for a season and I came
a long way home.

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