by Ian C Smith

She comes around, working day done, collects his newspaper as usual, checking if he has died in reclusion, he wonders, imagining himself as an amateur self-portrait, attic junk, paint hardened within a darkened frame, or an old tobacco tin, its shine, like secrets, obscured by age. He reads his paper before neighbours rise, quiet hours ahead of his busy road’s clamour preferred to obduracy’s rueful choir that dogs him until sleep these riven years. She left her car at home, downtown from his place, for exercise, tells him a dark striped dog, a mastiff, the police said, menaced her as she walked from work. The animal’s owner chased the unregistered beast, restrained it, guiltily apologising, she says, still shaken. As light through coloured glass falls on her hair he notices scant grey in it despite these years, thinks, when she finishes relating the skirmish before leaving abruptly, also as usual, he should have put his arm around her, mentioned how her hair worn that way looks pretty. Above his computer he blue-tacked a decades-old photo, her in yellow shorts complementing tanned legs in wanderlust days posing with a bike in the Hudson Valley. A slavering dog had stopped their ride, forcing retreat. He fashioned jousting lances from fallen boughs, led their charge like a gallant knight of yore, pedalling full tilt, yelling with gusto, her cycling one-handed towards trouble, in faith on his wheel, the dog turning tail. He pictures the scene as Picasso might have painted it, their glorious colour lit by the sun’s warmth that distant day, as he waits for yet another indigo evening to swiftly head his way.

Ian C Smith’s work has appeared in, Amsterdam Quarterly, Antipodes, cordite, Poetry New Zealand, Poetry Salzburg Review, Southerly, & Two-Thirds North. His seventh book is wonder sadness madness joy, Ginninderra (Port Adelaide). He writes in the Gippsland Lakes area of Victoria, and on Flinders Island, Tasmania.