My grandmother?s piano has scales. The wood is old and the varnish is flaking. It?s ten years since she died?almost to the day. I don?t know exactly which day. Perhaps it was the day I saw ducklings by the creek and a black-nosed kangaroo peeping through the trees. Perhaps it was the day the storm crashed in, howling wind, lightning, thunder and torrents of ice?rock-hail fit for a fist. Or perhaps I?m remembering it wrong. Perhaps it wasn?t this time of year at all.
I haven?t sat down at a musical instrument for six months. The glue holding the ivory to the D key comes unstuck when I touch it. I?m not sure if I can play the songs anymore.
I found a wishbone, flesh sucked off and dried, three weeks after I set it aside. Let?s put it in the crook of our fingers and pull. Let’s wish for the same thing. Why should somebody have to lose?
In Adelaide, the traffic was an assault. It had me clutching at myself, fingernails carving half-moon gullies into my arms. I?d been buried so deep I felt like the world was just an extension of me. The nodes of my brain felt like they were wired to every screech of brakes and pump of hydraulics. I thought I would need to build walls around myself to keep out the noise. Still some mornings, the sound of the traffic barrels into me, scraping at my skin like asphalt against my knees at six years old. I?m still bruised but more recently by rocks, rain, towbars, truck steps, the hoof of a pissed-off heifer.
Today, however, the city sinks into my skin like topical anaesthetic; misstepped rhythms and unexpected syncopation are balanced by the hissing of the trams, thumps and clunks, snatches of conversation overlaid by smog-clouds and dirty rain. It?s Legacy Week and Melbourne?s streets are peppered with servicewomen and men in camouflage gear selling badges, plastic bracelets and pins. A fat, high-ranked official with a moustache laughs at his own joke. Water drips off eaves and balconies, pooling in the street to be splashed back up again by bicycle wheels and high heels.
On the way home, I dream of careless fingers running down my legs, a martini mouth and pages of words disintegrating into smudges, scribbles, vines, tree branches, flowers uncurling.
?Since you left I cannot unsee these fucking caterpillars.?
There?s a ringing in the back of my head. I threw up a meal just to see the water sprawling over the saltpans for the first time in decades, heavy like glass, algae green and marbled red?the red of old blood, earth-blood. Birds glide along the surface, wings beating in unison. The desert is alive.
?Everything that exists has some life apart from itself.? The universe is a negotiable alliance of things, of relationships: your eyes have a relationship with these words. The steering wheel of my car has a relationship with the orange I ate for breakfast. My fingers have a relationship with these piano keys, poised, tentatively touching cool ivory, slightly out of tune, but there?s still music under the lid. I know there is.