Sons of Gallipoli

A couple of carriages was all the state could spare this morning and by the time the Steel City was lost away to the east they were both travelling caravans of a kind of itinerant, and manic, suburban disasters.

This girl here, this woman, all cackled up and laughing, heaving with a tenfold share of chemical mirth as she told the school kids who surrounded us all about the night just she had passed in hospital. Pregnancy confirmed.

Seventeen weeks in natal expectancy, the child just another intestine with a foreign pulse.

Oh My God ! Oh My God ! Oh My God !

This litany of empty imprecations echoed away through the carriage as the girls flickered their benign interest over a landscape of melancholy distance beyond the windows.

Acres of weedy acres, here and there a rusted collapse of some desolate home that once sent sons to fight the Turk.

Sons of Gallipoli.

An old woman slipping past our vision, just a glimpse of her sitting on an upright  kitchen chair outside a large tin shed behind a nondescript farmhouse yellowed with heat and all alone in its fifteen acres of dry weeds – just sitting there – her arms upraised to the hot sky.

Alone. Pleading?

Oh My God.

A flooded furrow here, one that runs for hundreds of yards alongside the train track, through willow and marsh, just faintly tracked with the ancient footfall of boys who have left their endless mudlarking days for a life of labour and poverty.

Craig sits and tells me of his fatherless days, his many homes, and when he looks away at the river, in retrospect and in the telling I see the massive scars that litter his forehead and cheeks

Gouges and rips. Hammer blows. This man has done hard times.

He laughs and talks of fighting, and we leave before his clear eyes dim.

Two policemen patrol the train, fretting with the unwelcome duty, booking this kid and that.

There is no onshore cooling breeze out here, and the sky lowers upon itself and beats hard on the asbestos roofs of valueless homes scattered by the everlasting streaks of eight-lane freeways.

We travel through the landscape like a man stamping through an empty house of fragile windowed walls – how it cowers.