A late thank you
You were an exercise in patience – not just at first,
but just before I was supposed to die.
You were there when the back beat faded;
when you saw that lash of fear drop into my back bones, my breathing bones.
Blisters pimpled my tongue, body acidic from dying.
Roped heavy; tied to a bollard, brown water lapping at my lungs –
you set me free for a while until I could be born again.
Your father fugued out because I was destined to expire.
Said ‘go with it, but be prepared to bleed.’
I understood, but with a disproportionate papal fury, so I stole you away
and your mother offered me champagne and strawberries.
We danced and fought and kissed and I slapped you. Everyone saw.
They saw our mouths and bodies smash and shiver,
they saw how I lost myself to you and your perfect teeth.
It was a place where no one else could come –
a place we would break each other, then stitch each other up
only to split more at the seams.
When we fell apart again, you were the only pill I could swallow.
You wanted the next minute more than the last as I faded in fluorescent light.
But before that, we abandoned any pretence, yielding to every mania because we were
twenty-one and just out of the nest.
KFC picnics in Pinkenba where we could scream at the ships
then lay down in the grass and scream for each other until my lungs
took on a death rattle that would become so familiar.
I would cough and you would grow harder inside me.
But this was the beginning, and we were wet thighed,
red-lipped surrender, slapped faces, dancing hips, lollies, pot,
fast food, late nights in alleyways, later mornings and threads of blood.
At the end, days turned to nights, going nowhere as my light faded –
the darkest point always before dawn; still as a domino before it tumbles.
Your hands were on my breast, my heart was in your teeth and I couldn’t
sing you under as pain climbed the ladder of my spine, bone by bone.
Late nights in my single room stopped, but you kept me breathing –
muscles turning to mush; hip bones cast into the air like a mast.
We would lay my body in bed as one would with anatomically correct bones.
I stopped walking, so you carried me,
putting me to bed on midnight jaunts to my hospital room.
I remember you walking from the city to South Brisbane with my favourite food.
Just for me. And I loved you because we were boxfuls of faith and fear.
I would cough until ribs split like cheap matches against cordite,
my gums and teeth all bloodied, lips periwinkle blue, arms blackened from the punctures
that would always miss the vein. Hit and miss and miss again.
arteries blow and veins don’t grow
You were there when I woke from my little death.
You held me in your hands when I was flushed of face –
my cheeks full of breath and fluid,
wearing in these lungs now awakened and in me –
lungs I always thought I had thieved until now.
My lungs bleeding her blood; her lungs bleeding mine.
And to think I’m not sure if I ever thanked you.