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 Dancing Home, his first novel, won the national 2016 David Unaipon Award for a previously unpublished Indigenous writer and was published by University of Queensland Press in 2017.

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