I gripped the branch
and waited in a paddock that ran on
over harder and harder earth.
Leaving me with smoke and the stick
to beat the fox, my uncle drove off.
Terror barrel-rode through my stomach.
I knew my uncle, his quick rabbit-skinning hands,
his arms like dry river-beds dammed at the shoulders,
his voice harsh, kelpie-cursing,
would not understand if I let the fox run to the bush.
Fox-hairs of dust sweated in my palms.
I stood in the exhaust of leaves
the short time it takes a tongue
to reach into a hurting body and strike ashes.
A twig snapped. The fox stood, coughing.
The branch on its neck
rang like a shot:
a shot so loud it shook out a flock
of galahs from their trees,
cracked like a wave
the buried sleep of rabbits.
When my uncle came back, he threw
the charred body into a ditch.
I turned away kicking earth over the bloodspots of fire
and prayed not to waken
another animal from the wheat.
I was nine years old. All my life
I'd stuck close to my yelled name.
I was a child praying for the dark
each time the sun caught my uncle's eye.
Hook and Eye: A Selection of Poems