I put my signboard in the back seat
and we tacked through the fleet of trucks
in the parking lot and onto the
hot open road.
Where you goin’?, she’d asked;
lips and beef jerky: I’m Carla!
Her jaw, blade straight, softened in powder,
she looked dry. Her earrings swinging, one-handed.
Her face was smooth and pale, no hair;
her colours borrowed from elsewhere,
she smelled of meat and sweet freesias.
Pleased to meet ya, she said,
her voice crunching under wheels.
You looked like you need a ride and I
need to hide myself from sleep you see.
She drove in bare feet.
Hon, get me a cigarette? She pointed;
I rummaged around and found a penis in a jar.
Oh right, she said, that’s weird, I know,
but that’s the worst I have to show you.
It used to be mine, she said.
It’s in a jar, I said.
I had nowhere else to put it.
Silent, we slid northwest.
The sun the colour of a two-bar heater,
switched off and still warm. Taking me back to
distant days huddled in layers
of endless tea and jazz in my fuggy room.
The window’s gap sucked on her cigarette,
licking it clean of ash, blushing the tip.
She smoked like she knew what she was about.
The hairs on her left arm were vermillion,
soon to be lost to the door’s shadow.
What you gonna do, Carla? When we get there.
I recognised her expression -
(I’d once told my Nanna I’d lost a friend to a rival
and her eyes and mouth showed me:
there’s worse to come, get used to it.)
Carla treated her hair like a sleepy toddler
slung this way and that, stroked and tolerated
but her eyes, hazel?, were made for the haze
of a long, long road. She seemed to have no edges.
I’m throwing it from the Golden Gate, she said.
I rested my hand on her shoulder,
the strap of her top under my fingers.
We drove into orange darkness.
Robbie Frazer won first prize in the Brian Dempsey Memorial Prize competition in 2018.