bottom of the well

I can see you folded in on yourself like a sleeping winkle. You are bent like a pretzel, looking uncomfortable — but you are asleep, so there must be some degree of comfort. There is a shadow of consternation on your face, resting between your eyes and in the angle of your lips.

You are bunched. Crumpled. One shoulder juts out and up like a warning, holding the world at bay. A tangle of sheets might otherwise have been pleasant, but here they look more like swaddling or ties, binding you in a frustrated mess.

I look out the window, through the shimmered glass onto a dry garden of unforgiving soil. Inside it’s cool, but outside they day already begins to feel the harsh hand of heat behind it. It’ll be a few hours yet before the blowflies hide inside the porch and the dogs lie flat in a confused stupor.

You are asleep. So far away. I watch, looking for any movement in your eyes, like they do in books and movies. Apparently that is a sign that you are dreaming. REM sleep they call it. I imagine it is like watching a movie play out on the inside of your eyelids, and your sleeping body only has to settle back into its mental cinema chair and shovel in popcorn. I’m waiting for you to move your legs and arms like the dogs do when they see themselves in their own movies.

I am surprised by how far away I am. I wonder at your sleep, its deep dreamless quality. The stone falling, you call it. The pond. The well. I could reach out and touch you, but you are gone down into that half-light velvet. Not even you know what happens when you’re down there, but it reminds me of Kenneth Slessor’s Five Bells. When you wake you’ll give me ten points for remembering the poem studied in high school. I’ll chat to you then of Louis Nowra and how he adores the life and loves of Slessor. I’ll tell you how I still feel the memories of school when I read Mandy Sayer, married to Louis Nowra, and how the slapping echo of an oily Sydney Harbour can permeate three levels of writing. I would be proud of myself for seeing the connections and smelling the brine.

But I don’t talk. I sit at the edge of the bed and watch you. I see your shoulder and the soft, warm sigh of your neck.

I’ve been up for hours. I’ve taken the dogs for a walk in the paddock. I put my shoes on without socks, slid them onto my feet and went out to hear the waking of the tiny birds, the ones you know the names of. I catch a glimpse of the Rufous Whistler, or so I think. I’m never very good at keeping track of these things. There is always a little bit missing. I have no problem with the raucous full-stop birds, the exclamation-mark birds – the parrots, the rosellas, the lorikeets. It is the little ones, flitty and delicate, balancing on stick-thin legs and carrying subtle brown markings. They are the elusive ones, offering me something that is just out of reach.

I came back and made the coffee on the stove. It gurgled happily as it filled the kitchen with its sly aroma. You know the one; it never tastes as good as it smells. The dogs watched me from their corner — they are a little unsure about this, my presence. We’re getting to know each other slowly, and they are accustomed now to the door opening and me behind it. But this everyday activity in their kitchen still makes them wary.

They know I’m here, even when you don’t. I think it must be their second sense, their doggy nature. They lift their ears when I arrive, even though I’m always very quiet.

Now I’m on the edge of the bed. I think I must be waiting for you to wake. I don’t really want to wake you, but I’m missing your company. I want to see you roll over and smile, even though I know it won’t be possible for me to see that. That doesn’t belong to me. I only get this bit, the sleeping bit. The second you emerge from your watery sleep and crack the surface again, your lungs raking in oxygen, I’ll disappear. I always do.

The dogs will notice that I’ve gone. They will flick their ears and sigh heavily.

I’ll continue to wonder what you see when you sink to the bottom of the well tonight. Regardless, I know that you’ll dream me up again, conjure me without realising. You’ll settle into the sediment at the bottom, out of my reach, even though you called me here. I’ll sit on the edge of the bed and lean into you, waiting for you to wake.

bottom of the well


Joined August 2008

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