Did we meet on a slow-motion bus
one hot afternoon
from the east coast to the Riverina –
you, impersonating a man
from the paintings of René Magritte,
that is, everyman.
For hours you didn’t open up under your grey
while the radio played Georgy Girl, Vincent, and
The Rivers of Babylon.
Your reflection on the window made a tiring
threesome with a doggedly stalking sun.
Then we spoke –
abruptly, things unimportant:
cattle, weather, the super jet,
some good news from Paris and Vietnam.
You said you came for a niece who was “trapped
in her youth”
playing wild like a brumby over the evergreen
I thought about a runaway daughter standing
on a craggy rock
assaulted, assimilated by salt winds.
At a stop you hurried to a telephone box beside
a milk bar by the main road.
A small town; they sell horseshoe-shaped
glass-holders and earrings on the shelf of service
accepted dollars and pounds;
a creek ran, but not with much water.
The late-spring dandelions swaying fresh and
gold in the curving grass.
I watched the dusk grow like fallow land like a
and you, in an astronaut’s capsule,
talking inaudibly to the twilight as if probing
and begging for a short ride.
Then you vanished into the bush behind the
Work, travel, motor accident,
trial before dawn, ridicule among the ridicules –
I read a bit of Albert Camus on the way to
and spent one night in Albury.
Stars of the past centuries! –
still shining, puncturing new, and fluffy!
Attending a generation’s curtain call,
tumble and flow from the pits above
as if emerging from the reel of a Kodak film.
I zoom in at a moment of an ordinary year
from over a thousand years,
when everyone looked harmless, calm,
Taking a slow bus from a seaboard town
one hot afternoon
two mute men kept each other company, beside
and peering into the dark the passengers
waved rhythmic behind the lighted glass
link and pin with a submarine
or grinding their way through a sugar cane field
We were left there
while they would move on calm and clear
many a night into the future.
Y. B. SIMON