Posted in Before the Rain

Over and Out.

The office dated from the 1940’s
refurbished in the 60’s at a guess
was so old it had a blackboard – blackboard?
Black/green structure written on with chalk – chalk?
Before whiteboards and markers and screens = blackboard plus chalk
in my office, always waiting – duster, calcium sticks of colour –
white, red, blue green, yellow
ready to go – never used, until ….
The last day,
some equipment needs to be returned to a sister facility
spokes and hub
I had been involved – minor – from the bench,
can I take it back? “Sure.”
Early afternoon – 30 minute drive
must to be checked – “wouldn’t you know it, Jim’s out – have a coffee,”
chat + chat …
Jim returns
chats…. And then some.
“Right, all good – sign here. You’re welcome. Any time.” Back, late, everybody’s gone
down the corridor for the second last time,
on the blackboard, written in chalk
Bryan wishes me well, and Good Luck.

Posted in Before the Rain


Newspaper questions : What? Where? Why?
And who?
The last which troubled me – deeply – woke me up
I desperately wanted to know his or her identity, It had to have been male
the glass ceiling a glass foyer then …..
still – “WHO?”
The boss, always certain about this uncertainty
apparently a decision,  “they,” at head office made 

“They.” Ever present all-powerful and invisible
the hangman whose identity remains unknown.
For the final days of my then career
I sort to decipher the signature on the death warrant.
At our last meeting an offer of conditional surrender – I would go quietly
if I could know,
he told me he didn’t.
Perhaps desperation failed. Or perhaps truth succeeded.

Either way
moonlight never rose over the dark 
impossible to prise loose two words.
He could have paid half price ….. a surname only.
impossible without forgiveness
forgiveness impossible without knowing .
closure, a concept – understood, but unreachable.

Half a decade on
harsh notes of grief fade to symmetry.
Tragedy. A motorcycle fatality. His first born.
Highway forensics still an infant science
no verdict could be returned.
Who took this from him. He doesn’t know.

Posted in Before the Rain

Coffee Brake

The photographic recall of an expert,
the zoologist able to name tax, species, genus
an art historian, masters, periods, schools,
a mathematician multiple sequences of Pi.

Shirley, tea lady in excelsis
assigned every staff member an individual cup
 earthy – clay spun, by local artists
and remembered all preferences : coffee + (milk – sugar).
Tea time queue
cups laid out like a street vendor
cheerful greeting – pour and mix – she never forgot. “Next please.”

A joint project with a university down south –
brains and muscle –
they have the ideas, we do the field work.
Pre Internet,
no Skype or video conferring
long-distance phone fiscally frightening.
I will take the work to them – and report findings.
five days away,
part golden opportunity – dead man walking – out of sight, out of mind
part gold watch – seven days per diem and travel.

On return
at morning break my cup is missing,
Shirley briefly, uncharacteristically blank
flurried awkwardness
a computer about to crash
before screen saver of inattention takes the rap                                        
“silly me,” she rushed
“I thought …..
…. …. I thought ….. you were ….. away.”