Erin Shiel – Driving over the Bridge

Shiel LE P&W August 2023

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Special Australian Edition August 2023

Driving over the Bridge, poems by Erin Shiel.

Driving over the Bridge

It’s time you did this on your own, you know.
I hate my voice as it grinds through the same
old argument: set your own alarm, get yourself
up, deal with the consequences of being late.
His floppy school hat hides his face. His torso

moulds into the shape of the seat with skinny
legs hanging off the edge. The arch of the Bridge
rolls overhead. Steel girders weave in and out
with the clouds floating beyond. Hardest of hard,
softest of soft. Like parenthood. Like the playlist

skipping from Hilltop Hoods to Frozen, Eminem
to Beauty and the Beast. I have something to say.
Hold on till the end of the song… but he’s skipped
to the next song without a break. I have something
to say. Time is running out. We are nearly over

the Bridge. Don’t spoil the moment of peace
together, Kanye is on. Turning the last bend
I look at him, seeing beyond fetid sports
gear and social media scrolling to feel heart
hurting love, hard as steel, soft as cloud.

The freckles have faded from his face, the legs
are muscular, hairy, out of place in school uniform.
What is it that I have neglected to say? He jumps out,
rushing for the last exam. Sorry I made you drive me,
he grins. It’s time I did this on my own, you know.

Night dissolves

My toes grip the sand that squeaks
as I drag a stick to trace my path.
A lone bird bobs in the shallows searching
for a fish. Day never breaks in stolen space.

I am here to write my way home.

Is this brooding roof clear beyond the clouds?
The waves tipped with phosphorescence mirror
the cumulus. These inky dunes hide no one yet
my heart drums the skin that seals my ribs.

I am here to write my way home.

There are three lights on the prawners’ nets
that close in around the transparent ghosts
whose bristled swimmerets fail to move
them fast enough. I am not part of this triangle.

I am here to write my way home.

Though they may feel the sand that blows
from my shadow, they cannot hear my soughing
through the waves and wind, mourning for where
I come from, for soup, open doors, known faces.

I am here to write my way home.

The wind slaps my cheeks. The needling rain
swallows courage from a grown-up mist blowing
sideways. Giving in, I roll into a ball. My knees
rub my eyes but feel only socket and bone.

I am here to write my way home.

Day doesn’t break. Night dissolves in liquid light.

After visual artist Philip Wolfhagen, Winter Nocturne III, 2006.[i]

[i]           Philip Wolfhagen, Winter Nocturne III, 2006. See in R. Ian Lloyd and John McDonald, Studio, Australian Painters on the Nature of Creativity, R. Ian Lloyd Productions, Singapore, 2007, p. 251.

On the floor

There were the hours
I spent colouring
paper on the kitchen
floor so the indents
of the lino appeared.
Then tracing faces
I found in the patterns
of the carpet. Writing
circles and strokes
in dust on the fireplace
tiles took a morning.
In the afternoon
I followed the ants
carrying a crumb
of madeira cake
from the kitchen
down the concrete
back stairs. Squeezed
one till my fingers
turned white.
Watching them scurry,
I marvelled at power,
then pondered
Having hours
to reach the peak
of boredom
then tip over
into a micro world
reverie conducted
below ankle level,
off the radar
of adults,
was preparation
for now.

© Erin Shiel

Erin Shiel lives and writes on Gadigal land in Newtown, Sydney. She has had poems published in journals and anthologies such as Mascara, Meanjin, Cordite and Australian Love Poems.  In 2022 she won the South Coast Writers Centre Poetry Award. Her debut collection Girl on a Corrugated Roof was published in June 2023 (Recent Work Press). She has worked in the health and community sectors, particularly in cancer prevention and early detection as well as in support services for children and families. She is currently training to be a counsellor and is enthusiastic about the role of creativity and poetry in therapy.

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