Kona Macphee


The silvered windows at Tullamarine
glowed with a travelling red-gold flush,
the mirrored skim of the sun's dawn disk
that fired the skin of the incoming planes.

My own plane, out there, closing in,
was winding up our wait like a reel.
The minutes hung on a shortening line
I could not lengthen; nor could I unwind

your shrinking, tightening curl of spine
that suddenly craned to the floor, pulled back
a tiny payload, Queen's head tailed
by a coiled echidna: five Australian cents.

Here you are, dear : that little gain
a talisman to loss, you passed it on,
and silence spoke beneath our voices then,
the bones of your hand enclosed in mine.

Through the passengers' gate, gripping your coin
like a cool change to the flame of my palm,
Tails , I thought, and I'll see you again ,
but didn't toss, no, couldn't toss that coin.

I learned something recently. Did you know
echidnas dig themselves to ground in fire?
The firefront passes, and through smoking earth
a spine foretells the phoenix ashy beast.

I saw this in a film and thought of you,
your windfall coin, your own grey ash
in a funeral garden braced by gums,
those hungry, grey-green, fire-feeding trees.

The coin I've kept - you'd laugh, I know -
on the inside lid of my writing tin,
silvering the pens' red, black, green, grey,
and on those sweet rare days when the words
come deeper than voice, I flip the lid
to take my pen, and there it is: Tails.


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