There are children’s footprints outside the avenue of statues…and dog’s too. They muddied their feet in pools of water evaporated by the day. They played and joked and then moved on, with no regard for the cold clean stone shapes left alone behind the glass. I will stay, listen and trace the blue veins folding through the marble into the past. They will take me back through the avenue, back to you.

I have time. Time to stop and take in your view. No thistles here. No mountains or tartan clansmen. No majestic stags, pawing. Just children throwing stones and above them, a magpie alert to crumbs. Outside, the sky is a perfect Wedgewood blue, but clouds have settled on me. Can you help Robbie? Can you hear?

You look out from a room built for you; a window frames the outlook and forms a picture. The mute streetscape before you is the New World lit up in its own warm, sweet khaki tones. You can see the wattle in bloom along the street, its yellow almost neon in the lengthening veranda shadows. In this fresh home (with three glowing bare walls, glossy timber floor, the window, and a skylight) the distance from your Old World is palpable. What can you offer from this bright and sterile place?

Credit: R. Dempsey

Others come and go as I sit here with you and I know you don’t speak their language and these children have no time for yours. Their loves are not like red, red roses, but lanky inconsolable weeds. Your silent accent falls on a different world, one deaf to poetry, but today I’m listening. Tell me Rob — show me everything.

I wish I could be like you. You’re profoundly alone, here in this space — but there’s something quietly flamboyant about you, ready for action, ready to write a poem or fight a battle or fall in love or rescue a child. There’s a hidden stratum of wry humour about you and if you’re critical at all you’re most critical of yourself. I can tell you’re serious but not stern, thoughtful but not melancholy. What I see is your gift of vision — even galleried here — as your eyes continually seize upon this far southern realm.

Robbie, I know now you and I are exiles from home and warmth. We’ve lost and found each other in one form or another, and there are yet words between us. And there’s this altered prospect, sunny and calm. A new-found place where we’re conspirators once more sharing the silence, at least for a while.

All too soon though I will go, leave my own footprints in the drying mud outside the avenue of statues and you will stay, silent stone sentinel to elder days. But don’t be too sad my Robert. You found the secret stillness at the heart of poetry in your marble likeness, far from your home and right where you should be. I must go out and find it for myself.

This story was first published in 21D Magazine, Melbourne, in 2011.

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