A Thousand Yards
Between the blossom trees
and along the straight, gravelled avenue
the tall chimney rises.
The polished steel is hot and deranges
the stark slate of the blue sky beyond.
You took one thousand strokes
on a hired exercise machine in
the cold unlined garage,
while outside your small shrubs grew up around you;
your stare down the drive and into the postcode was infinite.
In Countdown you colour-coded
the vegetables part-time; the produce manager
disputed your work and asked you to focus on specials.
You walked home shamed
age 73 in your Asics.
Over the road at the RSA, the howitzer pointed skyward;
some days you could buy a $12.50 lunch,
silently eat in the blazing afternoon sun
—the work dried up,
“I didn’t need it anyway,” you’d mutter.
You did need it.
Your last time spent creating lattice frames for your
climbers; an archway for the rose
and crazed paving in the driveway
for you to tread in socked feet at dusk.
You twisted and sweated at night—
something wanted to burn you.
You became afraid of the Inland Revenue
and replayed Slavonic Dances over and over,
the music describing a swelling, sea-bound river.
Today, you are just smoke, tarring the sky.
“You’d be surprised how heavy the ashes can be”
says the slicked-haired undertaker,
the plastic composite box too small
for your terror.