If the door’s open when I lie in the bath, I can see
your painting rinsed in soft louvered light. You
sketched it from the top of the street. I visualise
you still in old corduroys, notebook in hand,
squinting at the sardined houses holding tight to
hills, roofs patch-worked in silver and oxblood,
ridges of fig and jacaranda, stephanotis vines
swallowing front fences and the lantana-laced
yards where chickens ran among vegetable rows.
I smile when I remember the horror on your face
when we rented the ibis-legged house in the dog-
legged street leading nowhere – you patiently
explaining the sketchiness of the aspect, the way
fog would pool at the lowest point and the hot air
that would hang low and suffocate our days if
there was no huffy breeze, but in later years you
laughed joyfully at our madness. And it was mad –
the paranoid eyes peering through lattice, séances
we witnessed in the house next door from our
window just a metre away. Herds of cats crouched
on cracked walls, thick with fern, bougainvillea
claws splashing neon-pink against a washed-out sail
cloth of sky. The scent of rotting mango mixed with
hops. The strange sci-fi twins that lived in the flat
below. The way we huddled on the back-step as
Crowded House resounded into a frosty night.
Those months camping in a deep crease of the city,
and not just surviving – taking on the colours.
Jane Frank’s Milky Way of Words was published by Ginninderra Press in 2016. A collaborative work – Flotsam – with Scottish poet Hugh McMillan will be published with Flarestack later this year. Jane’s work has appeared most recently in Popshot, Morphog, The Poets’ Republic, Pressure Gauge and in The Heroine’s Anthology (Perrenial Press, 2018). She teaches in cultural studies and creative writing at Griffith University, Australia.