by Sam Morley
I am in the shed sweeping
when my neighbour knocks at the front door
and tells my partner her husband is cheating.
She says he just rolled up his swag
on 40 years of marriage and throttled
his new motorbike to who knows where.
At the same time, my two boys are nearby
painting sunsets when I ask them if
they think the world could last forever.
One says no,
it is most definitely scientifical
there will be big flames, we are too close to the sun.
The other says yes, forever
because he thinks that just thinking
the word forever is enough.
The youngest boy then says he wants to paint
a golden tombstone for one of our chooks
that died the week before. To him, death
isn’t anything other than the colour of life.
In the week that follows, they cry every time
I pick up a shovel or speak with a solemnity
that makes them think I have God within me.
But my children don’t understand God yet
or the idea of it, or how it can draw a line
between now and the hereafter. And I don’t
want them to know the Divine or a Heaven.
What I want is for them to know there is a line.
If I’d known, I’d have taken them to the front door
to meet my neighbour and her Christmas cheer
got them to thank her for her sparkling gifts.
I’d have made them listen to the smallest sounds
that came from her as she pushed up her glasses
to look at the tinsel festooned on the porch.
And I’d have trained them to find the slightest
mercy mixed in the low simmer of dusk.
But it never went like that—my neighbour
just waved it off, and my boys became
quiet, as if a constellation of dust motes
had burned and died around them.