Salamanca

it was a cold one on the esplanade in Hobart
the markets were set up, I was hungover and you
somewhat less so, but we managed to walk through it all
buy coffee, resist overpriced realist landscapes
of locations nondescript

feel the weight of expensive whiskey lingering from the bar
last night—cold nights of colonial architecture, a small town
grown larger in the mind of history
convicts shambling confused in iron cuffs
and the ones who were here first, before
on this island at the end
of the earth

cold and grey and green, the colours of a landscape shaped
by palisades, outposts of empire
two hundred years aged

we ate breakfast in a place furnished with dryers
and washing machines—everything was old, clean and crisp
and crumbled not crumbling
and somehow utopian, as if Lenin’s old dream
had lain down here
to wait

like in the book place next door
piles of leather-bound volumes and tattered paperbacks
feminist tracts and the entire Tintin

and some cracked volume of Capital
hidden among crooked shelves and crannies
as if to find them was a miracle
of timing and misadventure

the night we spent on that island of an island, furthest
from the world—the waves breaking
and the birds approaching so close
to our platter of cheeses and bottles of wine
still hangs with me, hangs
like a freshly washed towel
on the back of this bathroom door

there was always more, out there
misadventure and mayhem
signals of a society we both felt absurd
and if we couldn’t find it, the way through
that
was me

I wake in fright sometimes
remembering that smokehouse and the ferry ride
a union pub and cigarettes
and walking home through the fancy part of that town
to a share economy rooming house

red lights on the Launceston brewery
and the peacocks at noon

the monkeys in their glass menagerie
and us both dancing to a local band
before we left at midnight
as they shut the doors

later, at that place by the river: we’d bought fresh apples
and pulled in to stay once more, readying
to return north

I felt the ebb of an entire lifetime’s worth
of waiting
recede that next morning

knowing you were there
and knowing it was me that wasn’t able
to see it

This is a reprint of work originally published in A Synonym for Sobriety.

Ben Adams is a writer from Adelaide, South Australia, who has studied literature and history, clerked at video stores and petrol stations, been paid to wrangle cash at beer-soaked music festivals, and worked in academia. Many of his poems have found publication both online and in print over the last decade. His first complete collection of poetry, A Synonym for Sobriety, won the Single Poet series award from Friendly Street Poets and was published in 2019. Find him on Instagram (@bts.adams) or Twitter (@badbadams) and, finally, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/bts.adams.

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