Indigo Perry

Cave of Swimmers

                                                                         I'm not sure I want to
swim away in the obvious directions   
of sadness     
         And the husk of   
                           I'm waiting for the rain.     To be drenched in it and have it peel me 
of clothes until I am filmed in moony, transparent skins.        In breakage, I will be 
And you
                           won't go this time, leaving me to the lonely relentlessness of the river in the 
night.      I’m tired of being strong like unbreakable thread, a fishing 
line drawing tighter to corset me, a woman being prettily, slowly quelled 
with ribbons. 
                              I don't want to go home to the children I've made.         I'd rather 
skate surfaces of indelicacy    and irresponsible behaviour.           Lick away 
the pretense of caress and 
                                      sink my fingernails into the skin, kiss with hard lips and teeth 
until I make jagged blue-red lines.
                                                                 Lines to be followed back to me. 
I will stand here amidst my sharp-tipped flowers with my soundscape, 
                                                                                                                                        my score 
of rushing water.
And my mouth quivers.             Who am I to be the one who is sad.        
                                     I’m      this one. 
I led her here with marks I made like   poems   in your flesh.       Scales 
            of memory pain flicker me in knife-scattered and -scraped flecks.  
                              To cry through nights      seems sweet until I stretch out to feel 
the emptiness.    
                          And wonder what mistakes were these          
                          and am I going to stop.         Breathe on me 
          with gentle, warm wind through this bleak desert with its 
of rain, 
      until I wake and remember how it feels to have feet and to have blood circling 
inside.                                   What it is to bleed in heat over another and he 
                                       rubs it over himself and then puts his clothes over the top    
                    and goes out to the street with 
               imprints of me 
            all over his skin. 
                                             Rags streaming, 
                                                    wrapped to bind my wrists,        cutting off the circulations,   
the fucking endless circles.
                                                      Touch me again 
                                                because I've forgotten to be here.            Forgotten to be 
born into this life,        instead of caught in flight between.     
                                                    A storm in the bones.
                           Breath held in.   A hot, red-black ocean surging. Nowhere to go,       empty of 
                                  I go searching in the waking between dreamless hours      for my 
                           cave of swimmers.      

Do I really look in blindness: in desolate directions.  
                                            Fury in the fingertips.     The hurt of wanting to hurt.  
To have affect.      
                                                To be the one keeping you awake.           
                                        With my seas,   
                                        lapping over your skin.


Always the endings and the rhythms
  rhymes      and the rages        rain all night    must be thunder    the thump of wounds 
  Around you     all our children     
       thrumming      It's you who haunts the mornings.
                    Who is this self,  up with the washing-through              the rinse   
 many dirty dishes to keep me from sleep.              The adolescence of loss    
left to 
                    those infuriated       devices   Remember when you said I was present 
like a hummingbird. 
                              Here  but        in flight.  
I've been 
               the bird of absence         the home in dissonance         promises and hurried kisses     
Try to predict    the detritus        My    tracing through   Your poetic whispers   of 
absence          and presence And
                       remembering again through the skin and 
                  spectral repetitions of the voice of the mother.            I am at school and     
There's talk of a prowler.    
                          Always the prowling.     Every small town seems to have a 
    prowler.     Too hot I sleep on the trampoline under the Mallee arc of stars but 
before dawn I'm running in            because I hear the footfalls.          In the 
schoolyard   the taunt ends with something 
                                                      half swallowed
                                      Your father is the prowler.
                          You're not meant to tell her.
                      Your        father.         He's the prowler. 
                            No.         My father, he's the butcher.              A gentle, loving man. 
                            He's the prowler. 
                      Everyone knows. 
                                                                 Fifteen years ago, he got 
                                           arrested. For being a prowler. In another town. He was the 
butcher there. And the prowler. 
                                           At home, my mother. At the
                                                 sink.     Tired eyes.     Dad is at work. At the butchery. He 
starts before dawn every morning     and comes home long after dark.      Coats 
and aprons over his arm, left in the laundry out the back         Where the litter of 
kittens curl up in rags under the old sink.         Meat-stained work clothes for 
washing    and pegging out on the line. 
                                                 Mum, what's this I heard at school. Dad.    That other 
town where he worked at the meatworks.        Prowler.  
                                            Her mouth falls open.    It both terrifies and impresses 
me, that way she has of showing emotion in her face.   In many ways, she is very good 
at hiding       but     shock      
                                  marks her   like open wounds to     her face        every time
     And she is a woman who has suffered many shocks in her lifetime            Many 
cut-open wounds     Openings-up       
                                            Who said that? 
                                               They really said that to you?       At school?       Today? 
                                               And she tells.      Tells   a story it looks like she has tried 
to forget    but         
it lives inside her       like a        dream      that just doesn't seem to dissipate no 
matter how bright the light.        
                                               The police banging at her door.    She has me, an infant, 
in her arms.     And a toddler waking up in the back room.    She's sleepy, always 
hard for her to find her way     out of her deep, deep sleeps. 
                                                                                 She doesn't understand.                                                  
                                               They keep asking for him.    Saying his name.    Again and 
again. Asking where he is.          But it's in the night      she is inside this deep sleep     
confusion      He's not there.   Of course he's not           He works nights. They 
slaughter by day and the butchers work in the night             Making the cuts.     But 
she can't quite remember that          Only that he's not here         Not in the house      
His    side of the bed     empty       and they keep saying his name    and of course 
she knows the name, he's her husband     Of 
                                               course he lives here.    Why can't she say, he's at work.     
She cries      says he's not here, can't remember where he is    They shout
                                                  Think she is hiding something.           Is he often missing 
when you wake at night, they say           And of course he is.        
                                                  He works
                                    nights.         He's the prowler       they shout at her.       You must know. 
                                             You're protecting him. 
                                And my mother, you see, my mother 
                          with all her shock and her open wounds,       words like that scare 
her     They really scare her.         Prowlers scare her.     But not as much as     the 
suggestion that her husband is a prowler.                           
                  They leave at last.     She's got out the words that he's at work. He's at the meatworks     
                                 she says
                                 I'm screaming in her arms. 
                       Her baby is screaming in her arms. 
                                           She shuts the door on them and puts me in the bassinet 
and shuts the door on me too.     And sits in the kitchen in her dressing gown with 
her coffee.    And waits for the morning light. 
                                           His name is Robert. 
                                 He's a butcher at the meatworks. 
                            He is tall and thin. 
              Another butcher at the meatworks is also
              named Robert.     He's also tall and thin. 
              That butcher Robert is the prowler.  
                         Not her husband.       Not my father. 
                   The other butcher Robert, the prowler, is 
                        arrested that night.          At some point soon afterwards    he is not 
only charged with offences relating to the prowling 
                                but also with a series of rapes. 
                                He goes to jail.     The other Robert goes to jail.          
                                My father continues to work through the nights.         My mother sleeps 
her deep sleeps.                       But, 
                                          fifteen years later,     
                                          I am at school      and they are still saying my father is the prowler. 
                                               It's a new decade.      A different town.          I'm an 
adolescent, not a baby in a cream wool blanket in a bassinet.       But this 
accusation           sticks to my skin    now.     
                                          And I go back to the schoolground and tell them the real story
                                                    but nobody is listening. 
                                 And I ask my father why that is, and he laughs.       He's strong.      
Unlike me, he's sure of who he is,              and so I watch his face shadow over      
as he continues to smile.          He can try this on for a moment.      He can be the 
prowler.    Because he's so sure that he's not.        
                                 I wish I had that as well as his dark eyes.          I don't think I'm 
ever sure that I'm not      
                                          the prowler 
                                 thief           night stalker
                                                   you and I         
                           alike in this way among others 
                                       Always meaning to fall asleep earlier          but intoxicated 
by the wind that sounds itself after midnight.

Indigo Perry is a writer living in the Yarra Valley, outside Melbourne. Her book Midnight Water: A Memoir, was shortlisted for the National Biography Award. She is a lecturer in Writing & Literature at Deakin University. Most of Indigo's current writing is poetry, often written in public spaces. Her website is indigoperry.com.
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