He couldn’t make it down a single street in that town
without some wide-eyed Jesus- gentle kid
splitting the dust dry air with a fan blading hand,
and a “Hey mister!” smile.
Each footfall crunching earth and bone and history,
and each breath a sucking lungful of
coal dust, slow tumour and fading light.
Men like him had been coming
through places like this for a hundred years.
First taking soil and blood,
then meat and metal, then some strange absolution
for a kind of liberal guilt.
He’d stop and do the standard talk,
‘Yeah you could play first grade too
if you train hard and go to school
and blah and blah and… blah.’
He had the best intentions but empire always does.
A mile up the highway,
men like him on drilling rigs
were punching holes and sucking blood.
He wondered why the kids were always Jesus- gentle
and waved when he’d run.
“If I was you,” he thought,
“I’d be a fuse lit and smouldering,
I’d be a smoking shotgun.”