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sickly sweet cane
Ashley Duck (Macquarie University, Australia)



to me, you are the tide
sweeping, heaping
memories upon my shore

                      shall we travel back, together
                      where we saw the fish upon the bank
                      poking its eyes with sharp sticks
                      the stench of scaly skin rotting
                      in the blistering summer sun
                      deep, angry voices muttering
                      beyond our giggles

as we grew, we grew apart
and I ridiculed your choices
I broke away
you broke too
in a different way

                      let’s go back to the cigarette
                      shared on hospital steps
                      the laughter, the smile
                      what about that 50cc bike skidding on backyard grass
                      or those forever lullabies sung in hushed tones
                      on the unsteady waterbed and rose-scented sheets

sickly sweet cane
you attracted the critters who crawled into your life
and they settled, under skin
you tried to get them out
forever scratching, blistering
addicted to the thrill, to the pain
it festered and poisoned you

I wonder where our childhood went
what happened to our innocence?
where did the infection begin?

                      once more– you return me to
                      tobacco-stained fingers, bottled brew in brown bottles
                      the Dog on the Tuckerbox
                      the Three Blind Mice
                      those ducks in the backyard, a faithful
                      Hills Hoist and home-constructed swings
                      the sound of a leather belt across a bare arse
                      the red tubs and the old mustard boat
                      walking along the cracked concrete steps up to the back door
                      the garage, the potbelly
                      the noose

oh, wash away these memories, tide
it’s too much again
go now, back beyond the darkness
until we meet again



When she’s not spending time with her daughter and husband, Ashley can be found drinking tea and reading the words of Denise Levertov. She’s terrible at writing her own author bio despite studying a Master of Creative Writing at Macquarie University.

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