by Ian C Smith
In his first full-time job at thirteen my father toiled in a bakery. When we separated, me just fourteen, one of my earliest jobs was also in a bakery. I remember scraping trodden pastry from the rat-shit floor on hands and knees; the shock wave of escaping heat when those big oven doors were opened; acute loneliness, always near-broke. Once, leaving work, arms filled with bread, buns, baguettes, I spotted a banknote on the pavement outside a bank, dropped my precious rations to slip this jackpot inside my sock, joy and fear palpable, expecting to hear, Hey, you? The smell of baking bread can still silence me for long moments.
After being away, in trouble again, I worked with him in a foundry. Silhouetted, surrounded by moulders casting giant shadows, every day on time pouring the molten iron, flexed biceps shining, he transferred the thunderbolts in his big vat from the furnace’s fury into our long-handled pots, sparks, red and gold arcs stars shooting and dying; shouts and jokes incantations as glistening goggled eyes, suddenly lit as figures darted forward, our sweat unction for these rites, swore through streamers of acrid smoke into the fierce glare of my father’s heat. I had been away and now was back, had met a girl, divorced chaos, given dreck the arse. Numerous small brandings would heal when I emerged from this underworld. I had dreams. Did I mention that?
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.