Early navigation.
Whole days spent charting shorelines,
                                                                shining sands of skin.
Mornings, I ran my hands over the hollows and dunes in my sheets,
the body’s language for this landscape of the other
                                                                             warm on my fingers.

We spoke of crossing an interior;
our speech, sure as the sun at its zenith,
                                                               threw no shadows.

Easy to navigate on autopilot.
A constant reckoning of school and car keys.
The pole star of ourselves
                          always there in the somehow of early and late.

Sailing alone again
we startled at reefs and shallows
our language listing in tropic television seas.

Co-ordinates misplaced,
you turned to tripods and binoculars,
watched from your fixed point above the riverbank.
You did not see diamonds flying from a kayak’s oar,
dogs smiling in their timeless present and skies of naked pink
                                                               disrobing in the mauve of evening.

Navigation gone,
we lived amongst gaps, my compass skewed
by ferrous fears and the lustrous pieces of your astrolabe
stolen by slate-grey days; love absent, inarticulate and spent.

Mornings, I run my hands
over the hollows and dunes of you left in our sheets,

but I am a map-maker,
I can chart this arctic dialect of loss.

Flora Smith (Western Australia)

First published in Westerly

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