Nineteen years ago I returned
from the northern to the southern
hemisphere for the first time
after two and a half years away,
flew from a London winter
with snow on the ground
to a scorching Melbourne summer.
I rode the bus to Canberra to renew
a distance-damaged friendship.
We drove from the nation’s capital
north to Bathurst for the weekend.
Along the way I introduced her
to The Tragically Hip - Road Apples,
Day for Night and Phantom Power –
she gave me the gift of Buckley’s Grace.
We traversed drought-browned land,
through Gundaroo, Gunning and Gurrundah,
stopped somewhere unnamed for a swim.
After Europe, the distance between towns
seemed immense, the land a nothingness,
my Anglo-Celtic skin ridiculous and foreign.
Taking turns driving, attempting reintegration,
I wondered if I could ever belong again
after so much distance and time.
In Bathurst, I took turns on the waterslide
at the public pool with the freckled locals,
swam laps while she sewed in the shade,
rolled joints beside the back fence, smoked
behind the trees. That evening, she joined
her choir performing Handel’s Messiah
in a local church. I sat stoned in the balcony,
closer to heaven than I’d been in years.
Afterwards, we ditched the godbotherers
and drove down to the Macquarie
where we rolled more joints,
talked into the early hours,
diminished the distance
between us, and finally drifted
off to sleep beside the river.