Carpool

by
September 2021, no. 435

Carpool

by
September 2021, no. 435

Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, the rain blew you
into the backseat, steaming and boisterous, my quiet son
and you his not-friend-Dad-we-only-share-some-classes,
or late evenings, sunset dampening down the final lap
around the oval, falling into the backseat, grass-stained and
sweaty, for a grunt or two about school and other tyrannies
and then we’d have the radio on for the trip to your house,
or my one-sided conversation about the world’s events, things
I had heard. My son would roll his eyes and open a book and
you would thank me politely at the door of your dark house.
Today I heard about the caverns under the Nullarbor, plinking
cisterns and subway stations, gobleted with water, kilometres
of tunnels small as a wriggle or large as a castle. All the light
the dark keeps to itself is caught in those limestone funnels.
Cavers fly through water lucid as a dream, cold as truth, their
torchlight repeats, redoubles, pure and clear, through copepod
and brachiopod, through the blind flutter of slippery fish. None
have ever met a man. Glowing lace of slime. Fragile spiders.
All waiting for you, kilometres of undiscovered worlds
beneath the desert. All waiting for you. The fingers of a hand
and in a lifetime only a thumb might get explored. Each caver
going further than the last. You could be whatever you needed
to be. You could swim forever in these bowls buried deep
beneath the sounding holes and roaring seeps, beneath the
huddled saltbush, the wheeling, tell-tale birds, you could swim
forever and never need a breath. One tank could last forever.
Whatever troubled you, would be years away from the man
you would become, whatever you never spoke to me about
on that fifteen-minute trip to your house, would be forgotten pain.
Down each pointing finger in the rock, held out for you,
if you could wait that long. But I won’t drop you off anymore.
Your father met me where the parents wait, his eyes as old
as caves and spoke of your depression, but all I can think about
is waste, of fingers down beneath the heavy dust closing into
stony fists. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I’ll talk to you and
look back but you’ll be gone and those whistling bats and
all that lightless light must wait for someone else to find them.
I look back through my rear-view mirror at a queue of parents
in their idling cars, at a recursive hall of mirrors, at my son and
at the missing boy next to him and all those fathers look back
in their rear-view mirrors, at the shape of what the future might
become, and what the future can no longer become.

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