He is running through the school
playground in the dark: the shadows
of his father and little sister
seem impossibly long, his own small head
bobbing between. The figures of three
stretched phantoms dance along the fence-line,
his sister leading them away from the lights
of the art-fair into the blackest corner
where the grass is thickest. The precipitous
shadows creep closer and he wants to turn back,
but keeps running with his father’s
heavy footfalls behind. That night when he is
hot in bed he will dream about giants
and curled-up green caterpillars
nesting between his sheets. They chase a ribbon
of ghostly children to the little kids’ playground,
where tenebrous figures are climbing
through the half-light. He whizzes down
the high slide and clambers up a steel frame
to stand in the night air. ‘You can’t even swing
on the monkey bars,’ one kid says,
moving confidently hand-over-hand backwards,
hanging without ever seeming to fall.
He looks across to see if his father has noticed—
but he’s holding his sister up to the sky:
she is seeing the stars for the first time, her black eyes
gleaming intently with their far-away light.
The dewy cold has started to descend now,
so they find their way back: past the frying
sausages that make him long for a second dinner,
the chattering parents smelling of wine,
and the noise of the children’s band honking
‘Message to Rudy’ on squeaky saxophones.
The hall of the art show seems dazzling now,
the colourful pictures filling every space.
There, down the bottom, is a photograph
of his own surprised face staring back at him,
framed in the entrance to Luna Park:
surrounding it, in bright texta, he has written
his age—the number six repeated over like a spell.