I discovered Emerald Saunders in the library.
We shared a patch of winter sunlight.
She was engrossed in Silent Spring,
while I navigated the miserable terrain
of Children of the Dust.
We’d spoke during ancient and modern history
but the library was our silent place,
as were the postage stamps of suburban forest
As imperceptibly as continents,
we drifted closer.
It took two laps of the sun for furtive glances
to evolve into mesmerized gazes.
That summer Emerald revisited Bridge to Terabithia.
As Jesse discovered Leslie had fallen to her death,
tears rolled down her face.
There was no will I or won’t I moment,
I erased the hairs breadth between us
and clasped her hand in mine.
As Emerald nuzzled against my chest,
the world beyond the reading lounge ceased to exist.
My hands glided across her back.
She smiled as I traced her name.
The Christmas holidays were our first taste
of long distance love.
As I searched for goannas and echidnas,
in the forest separating the front and back nine,
Emerald roamed Banksia scrub,
behind her grandfather’s private beach,
supersonic hours away.
From an antiquated phone booth,
overlooking a submarine sculpture garden,
she shared her talent for tall stories.
The one about a giant earthworm
that thought it was an Anaconda,
after munching through a forest of Angel Trumpet,
was my favourite.
Emerald claimed she married a petal haired warrior,
with a Rosewood exoskeleton, in a recurring dream.
I volunteered to have flowers sewn into my scalp
and find a tree suit in a fancy dress store,
anything to compete with her noble triffid.
Months from graduation,
Emerald’s father insisted they move to Perth.
The University of Western Australia
valued Professor Saunders knowledge
of seventeenth century Dutch explorers,
as much as The Bulls relied on Jordan, Pippen and Rodman.
I’d cocooned myself in calming evening rituals.
New Year’s Fireworks, February ovens
and tyre torturing hoons
never dented my contemplative armour like Emerald’s absence.
She urged me not to slow to a walk
on the longest climb of our high school marathon.
Our essay duels were as intense as aerial combat,
the letters so numerous
the drug squad grew suspicious.
Once school was over, we drifted apart
as slowly as we’d drifted together.
Unforeseen costs torpedoed my west coast holiday plans.
My parents became street performers.
Their expensive guises ranged from dancing robots
to harp caressing lizard people.
Sinking my landscaping wages into overdue bills
seemed more likely than Santa buying me a plane ticket.
My family shifted from the house I was born in
to a friend’s caravan.
No longer playing chess in our bird attractant garden,
with One Night in Bangkok in the background,
was as disconcerting
as seeing an unfamiliar face in the mirror.
the tenant in our spiritual home,
was as charismatic as a cult leader
but didn’t seem to be selling anything.
A momentary visit, to collect the rent,
turned into a marathon sampling of her C.D shelf.
She marveled over Prince to Rachmaninoff,
with enclopaedic passion.
Gemma promised to forward my mail,
and convinced me to show her photo albums
chronicling Emerald and I’s adventures.
She asked enough questions to be her biographer.
‘Visit your old place any time’ she offered.
Emerald’s flood of letters dwindled to a drought.
Trying to call her from the corner shops
lead to a baffling conversation with a Kinbaku guru.
Had a prank caller prompted a silent number?
‘Next time I visit Aunt Grace, in Freemantle,
I’ll see if Emerald has moved’ Gemma promised.
She returned with unwelcome news.
The decision to write or not
had finally been wrested from me.
‘Stay if you like’ Gemma suggested one night,
as casually as she offered carrot cake.
She silenced my inner debate
by raising her dress over her head
with matador like finesse.
Gemma was as strong as a rugby player,
yet as voluptuous as a fertility Goddess;
her lingerie so delectable,
not even she would’ve looked better naked.
Gemma kept me on a tightrope
between erotic insanity and sated.
She conditioned me to fulfil her every whim.
I kept the bathroom shining
like a sunrise caressed crystal cave
and the garden as immaculate as a Japanese emperor’s.
The contours of her awe inspiring body
and her hypnotic instructions
taught me the subtleties of massage.
Every time I unclasped her brassiere,
to access her Olympic swimmer like back,
she paid homage to the gifted tongues
of unforgettable temptresses.
I was an obedient puppet, as string conscious
as flies are aware of the web.
Gemma’s psychology thesis
looked as familiar as our conversations.
Once she’d completed her degree
she vanished more abruptly
than an escaped serial killer with a passport.
Would heroin cravings have persisted
like my yearning for my massage teacher?
Emerald’s absence remained as mysterious
as the coordinates of the nearest extra-terrestrial civilization.
The day I graduated from university,
I ventured to her former street,
in search of a time capsule she’d buried
on the morning of our first kiss.
Paint was peeling from abandoned houses.
Rooves were buried in Jasmine and Morning Glory.
The remnants of unwanted furniture
were strewn among an emerging Pittosporum jungle.
As I spotted the mown circle, in Emerald’s backyard,
I felt like Robinson Crusoe
upon discovering Friday’s colossal footprint.
The milk crates and half empty beer bottles
unnerved me like a sleeping dragon.
Rheumy, paranoid eyes peered from a broken window.
Lobbing bark in the squatters direction,
sent him scurrying like a skink.
Walking the graffiti splattered hallways
was as depressing as visiting a vandalized crypt.
Emerald’s room was infested with needles
and cigarette butts.
Strangely, her poster of Sylvia Plath was unblemished.
I rescued it from its feces smeared surroundings.
The telltale fragments of ornamental sandstone
proved elusive in the fleabane and farmers friend forest.
Professor Saunders rust streaked mattocks and shovels remained
Blasting through the loamy topsoil
and waterlogged clay eased my depression.
As I carried the tiny museum to my rustbucket hatchback,
Storm clouds gathered,
like mourners at a child’s funeral.
How long had the fuel gauge been on empty?
Among the memorabilia were photos of The Gallery Café.
Monet and Van Gogh imitations hung on Daliesque wallpaper.
Emerald’s diary said the diner bordered
her grandfather’s beach front property.
I hoped finding her phone book would be
as pivotal as deciphering the Rosetta stone.
Normally I avoided answering machines
like a man prone to anaphylactic shock
shies away from Japanese Giant hornets,
but the gravity of the situation set fire to my comfort zone.
No one returned my calls.
Apparently Alexander Graham Bell is too futuristic
for Emerald’s grandfather’s liking.
I tried sending Emerald letters via him.
The man is more different than David Bowie.
He sweeps up at the local barbers
in exchange for hair for his compost heap.
What would a man like that
do with letters he disapproved of?
I studied for my bachelor of philosophy
like high distinctions are oxygen.
In the void between university and permanent employment,
I nearly drowned in my longing for Emerald.
Swimming laps until I was on the verge of drowning
left me exhausted enough to sleep.
If my shoulders protested like mustard gas victims
ordered back to the trenches,
I went cross country running instead.
My psychologist, Doctor Vella,
implored me to stop drinking the spirits of ancient history,
or at least water them down.
Gemma Wilkinson’s the only drug I’ve been addicted to.
Emerald is nobody’s narcotics,
she’s a tropical fruit smoothie
laced with every vegetable in the market garden.
Doctor Vella’s battle with the flu prompted a woohoo.
“Doctor Wilkinson will see you now”,
the receptionist informed me.
I was a blend of trepidation and excitement
as I approached the open door.
The woman gazing out the window
wasn’t the curvaceous powerhouse I’d envisioned.
As she turned to face me
I was as shocked as a Tasered cat.
“I heard about the gymnast that entertained you,
while snails feasted on my unopened letters.
Was she a perfect ten James?’
An ornately framed eight by ten
of Emerald in a wedding dress
and Gemma in a figure hugging tuxedo explained a lot.
“Gem and I met in Freemantle,
after her Aunt Grace tried to convert me
to her cocktail of Christianity and Buddhism,
our romance escalated like a campfire doused in aviation fuel.
Grace watered my plants and brought my mail inside,
whenever she visited with orange poppy cake
and exotic herbal teas.”
“That woman must’ve watched your letter box more intently
than David Attenborough ever gazed at a gazelle.
“If snails dined on your letters,
their banquet hall wasn’t my mailbox.
Me neglecting to read your letters?
That would be like a swarm of locusts
leaving the only grass for a hundred miles untouched.
Your whirlwind romance was as reckless
as sexual relations with a Crown of Thorns starfish.
Emerald listened silently,
with the poise of a martial arts legend,
noting a foolish aggressors flaws.
One could never tell
when a dose of her acerbic wit was coming.
The Kintsugi healed vase,
in the centre of Emerald’s desk,
was the perfect symbol for our after dinner conversation.
I showed her the Sylvia Plath poster
I’d found intact in her vandalised room.
She read me the poem on the back,
in her microscopic handwriting.
‘He’s a touch of tropical splendor
in an arid land.
I’d forgo a tour of crystal caves,
to hold his hand.
He’s rice bathed in apricot nectar
for a troubled soul.
In my dreams we are entwined
upon a Fijian shoal.
He’s every figure in my pantheon.
If he were the weather,
he’d be gentle breeze and steady cooling rain
as fading embers bring on night;
impish play mate, caressing my creativity,
he stands so beautiful
where withering darkness was,
I want to be his pillar of light.’