Our Last Queensland Winter
By Kasia Clarke
After the muddy roads and the mangroves
and after circling the curtain fig
and after the Big Things: the marlin on its tail,
the cane toad splitting the median
the mango towering over the A1,
but before seeing Mary Poppins in the rain
and before climbing the stairs into the big pineapple
and before starting our lives over again —
we walked into the caves.
Near-extinct ferns grew above us.
You held my hand tight as the shadows shifted
and we went deeper into the darkness.
The guide taught us of geology, dynamite.
Then we were in the cave-cathedral, limestone
stretching tall. The lights went off,
and we were awash in the deepest dark.
Our eyes searched for a hint of June sunshine,
then stars. Bats darted through the cool air.
Your breath stayed steady. We were in the quiet.
Whatever was to happen would happen.
Minutes passed; we got used to the dark.
Unexpectedly, the caves lit up again.
We made our way back to the carpark,
our footsteps echoing as we squeezed
and then crawled the last meters from the cave
back to the campervan, back to the road.
Our lives were still hundreds of kilometers away
waiting for us with the patience of the coast
waiting as the befores and afters faded and left us
alone and here together, now.
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