after-image (2020)

“I see them and look away … see stinger-ray hide in bush … climb for a better view … afraid of spider-snake-lizard … we watched them watched us … “

An after-image is the residual image you see if you look away at a blank wall or something similar having stared at a brightly lit scene. The after-image is a negative of the original in terms of light-dark and colour. It is mostly due to the photoreceptors in the retina becoming desensitised by the original scene. It fades after a few seconds as the receptors reset.

Locations include Hart’s Mill, Port Adelaide; the Gilbert Street Hotel, Adelaide; Lynton railway station, Belair Line; Hawker Avenue, Belair, South Australia.

• Text originally published in e•ratio 29 (2020).

after image 

I see them and look them away
and see stinger-ray hide in bush
jackal-plum make jam round feet
stripes bright them cross my eyes
them dark in blue-sky rumble-cloud
in lightning-steel-bolt that fall them
burn them to ash to puff of skin-
smoke as if bone-dead and going 
gone but I still see them hear them
song-in-my-ear voice telling them
to sit quiet just don’t move them
just wait wait them to final return

or maybe we letter them open
read them again under mulberry
under koala-gum honeyeater-bud
tell them how where when we say
them in adventure big-news-story
we wish them lion-heart wild-dog-
brain-cunning double-claw them
climb for a better view once more
feel them in love then warm with 
hand-grip in ours ring-finger them
like memory we wish them well
all together see them fade-away

perhaps we were them will be them
spectres of them shadows on tiles
pavements avoiding them missing
them afraid of spider-snake-lizard
at bay intersecting sparrow-hawk
spotlit them we hoodwinked them
ate with them counted tried to name
them push-pull-cajole consign them
to hiding-hole-safe accommodate 
them left-among-us still-ahind-us
we watched them watched us come-
and-go and come and go-and-go

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