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Sport 40: 2012

Phoebe and her Charge at the Café Bella Figura

page 386

Phoebe and her Charge at the Café Bella Figura

This is where they’ve come, to this place by the river
with its terraces above the open road.

What is it that makes me want to not watch?—
this man, his mind an eight-month-old baby’s

slurp juice from a glazed cup held in her hands?
She bends to him, tendering the movement makes plain:

‘Can you hear the big trucks? Can you hear them coming?
The big loud red trucks coming?’

They roar by in convoy. When the outside air settles back
onto road, river, a distant feed-lot forest, he moans.

The sound! it issues from his very ribs; enters mine.
‘It’s your paper,’ she explains. ‘He wants to

tear it into tiny little pieces.’ He cries out again
as if feeling a twist of dark come up. She tells me she has him

five days a fortnight: ‘He’s a handful, him being so big,
but then I think, if it was me . . . if I were like that . . . ?’

Poor manboy, to cry like this!
What layers heave beneath?

She keyrings a thumb round his agitated belt,
propels him toward the carpark, the quicksand of his legs

a skittering little non-dance of back-and-forth—
a further incoherence. I can see him in the metal

page 387

cave of her ute—belted in, doors locked (is fear, too,
part of the story?) Then she’s back at the table

sweetening her tea. Across the water,
light on some quiet trees—willow this poem

does not need, the kind we call weeping though they
flex and shine, putting on their own brave faces.