Now we are trying to be ‘at home’ in Paris,
Australia swarms after us.
As if our family and friends left behind
have suddenly become tourists in their own foreign land,
they send us postcards — sly stings of light to shock
one dark cell in our bâtiment’s mail collection hive.
For six months we play ping-pong
with pictures of paradise. To this dream place —
to this postcard hypermart — such collector’s items come:
Bellingen butterflies and rainforest trunks,
Newcastle under a rainbow and an infra-red Uluru,
eery as an X-rayed heart, capillaried with saltbush.
I pop Pont Neuf’s reflected arches — overwhelmed Os
in a fizz of fog and lamplight — into the mustard mouth
of a mailbox. This city at night, Limoges blue
and speckled with fluorescence, slides out of my hands.
Whatever words we add should be light
as butterfly feet under the wings of such pictures.
So the peakhour terrine of the Metro, the never-ceasing noise,
the limbo land of the language-bereft — all fade to tickling ink.
Then back in the belly of the jumbo come jokes,
local politics, literary small talk . . .
The postcards patchwork-quilt heaven without a care —
but the words underneath them, the words as they fly
to and fro, ply precarious high-wire ropes,
shy embroideries of longing
round needle-glints which strike
after the pictures have floated down
eiderdowns of elsewhere to prickle my dreams.
(from Travelling with the Wrong Phrasebooks 2012)