Haibun for the Road


There are twelve fields of oranges between us and the next town, so he pulls over
to buy a bag of them, bright fruit gathered in knots of red string. The air is dawncold
and the dirt is singing under our feet, the trees branching into each other like linked
pinkies. I hold out my cupped hands. Dad pours a ziplock bag of coins into my palms,
windchiming as they collide. Sign says pay what you want so I tip my silver river into
the cash box, while Dad gathers two bagfuls of orange light. As we drive, I count the
fruit fields, follow the early morning stretch of them, find punctures of light in the
fleshy mass of green. Dad feeds CDs into the stereo, magazine mixtapes, and piano
fuzzy with age under a bruised American voice pelting us like summer rain. Griffith
we eat bad Chinese in a butterthick sauce, and his ankle swells furious under wiry
blue socks. Ivanhoe we drive past the jail and the houses it’s gutted, gaping doors
with charred tongues and a petrol station itching under the sun. Menindee we
stay a few days and trace the lakes that quiver in the dry, birds climbing trees like
wingless creatures, leaping into the air, plummeting into the water, and surfacing
with skeweredfish beaks. We walk the streets through a muffleblack night, kicking
tiny stones, night sky a gauze stretched over white light. Every window dark when
I search for candlelight. The air drops and drops further. Frostkiss on the ground
in the morning. The drive back home stretches under a sky with arms wide open.
We stop for animals. We kneel roadside to keep an echidna from the highway, its
long snout resting on Dad’s knee like a dog, breath wet and friendly. Ice cream
afterwards in the old song of the forest. Home by nightfall. We don’t realise that we
wake in synchronisation the next day.

                                       Early morning in
                          cold light we share oranges
                                                    that drip down our arms.

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