States of Poetry Series Three - ACT | 'Vapour trails' by Paul Collis

(For my sister, Joanne)

Slowly the days pass.
Buses, cars, bikes
all roll away, away.
She is gone, down a shady street in shiny shoes.
Way above, vapour trails burn the sky
and way below, scars burn the land.
She screams, but I can’t hear.
In another street, the new suits,
suit themselves, and colours burn red and gold.
Noisy bastards. Shut up! Open up! Give her back.

A ghost slides up next to me
I feel her now, can see her vapour trail.
These days, I keep my shoes clean,
Walking down shady streets.

Paul Collis

I wrote ‘Vapour Trails’ after losing my sister, Joanne, in 2016 to cancer. Joanne was a beautiful woman, the best of us, I believe. Her death has brought us incredible sadness. I try to ‘find’ her, to keep her with me, in my imagination. I imagine her here with in my writing, and together we walk down shady streets.

Paul Collis

Paul Collis

A Barkindji man, born by the Darling River in Bourke, far north-west New South Wales, Paul is an emerging writer and poet, who works at the University of Canberra, teaching creative writing. Paul holds a PhD in cultural theory and creative writing. Dancing Home, his first novel, won the national 2016 David Unaipon Award for a previously unpublished Indigenous writer and was published by University of Queensland Press in 2017.

Leave a comment

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.

NB: If you are an ABR Online subscriber or contributor, you will need to login to ABR Online in order to post a comment. If you have forgotten your login details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.