Old mates/new faces

matted fur 

                                        facedown 

on sharehouse 

                                        floorboards

alone among 

                                        the empty 

silhouettes

                                         in dust 

evidence of 

                                        last weekend’s 

strays                         

                                        and stragglers



I didn’t         

                                        recognise him

without                         

                                        the kelpie

cross                         

                                        cross                         

cross 

                                        curled                                 

around                

                                         his legs

the sewn 

                                        black patches 

the crust

                                        -punk dreads

                                

                                        and when 

he woke 

                                        and told me

I looked 

                                        better 

since he’d 

                                        last 

seen me

                                        I offered

him instant 

                                        coffee

and didn’t

                                         return the         

                                        compliment



and steam

                                         washed over

the red ochre

                                        swatches

that ran 

                                        from his

chest to

                                        neck to

melted                         

                                        earlobes

dripping

                                        like catholic 

                                        prayer



I’d already

                                         heard the story

of how he stored 

                                        the van for money

and was told 

                                        to ask no questions

and was told 

                                        to never look inside

and was told 

                                        it better be there 

                                        when they needed it

or else



                                        and I 

offered him 

                                        somebody else’s

cigarettes                        

                                         and cringed 

when he brought                         

                                        the flame

close to his face                         

                                        and didn’t 

even flinch                                 

                                        for a second

I could smell                        

                                        the gasoline

hear the revving                 

                                        of the engine

as he drove it                                 

                                        through his veins





and remembered 

                                        hearing

him on the radio         

                                        singing 

coffee, god and cigarettes 

are all that I need

                                        and knew 

I couldn’t                         

                                        offer him

the         last one

Joshua Lee Shimmen is a writer, teacher and general ratbag.