The Traveler

by Oliver Hunter

A Traveller today, a Pilgrim of a sort, setting foot out the front door while chicken wings commenced their hour–long cook in the kitchen behind me; I’ll be back in time to pull them out golden brown and tuck into their warmth. I’ve sewn a new button onto the sleeve of my black Peruvian hoodie, in my pack is my copy of Little, Big and a bike pump, which proves to be of no use because the front tire has a flat. Too old, too long left out in the rain.

On foot then, in the fading of the day. I walk up the street and past the entrance to the lane, enjoying for the moment the sense of walking directly toward the green shadowy foliage of the hill. Gold sunlight rakes in shafts across the gulley, setting the tips of trees and the grass seeds aflame. Clouds play jigsaw in the blue evening sky and alternate the patterning of light on the hills. I watch as the grazing rays creep up, across, and over the hill, only to reappear in another place further along the slope. A barefooted woman bearing a branch of waxy eucalyptus passes me on the goat track, smiling shyly with her eyes on the Eastern horizon, her brown toes confident on the hard–packed earth. I make my way steadily, reaching the saddle half–blinded by the angles of the sun. A sign: magpie tail–feather on the track, only an inch or so long, white dipped in black. I pick the feather up and carry it above my ear.

I find my snake is still here, carved years ago in the young flesh of a kurrajong sapling — a sinuously–cracked double line coiled around the remnants of a star, amid other, more violent slash–marks made with a fragment of glass discarded nearby. Time cracks. Quicker footing along licheny rocks and dry grasses, blackthorns growing on the steepness all around me, clawing and begging me to slow or steady myself, daring me to go the Long Way. I understand, but brush them aside respectfully, and with a little weariness. The boulders are washed with wind and light, their mosses newly fed by rain. I take a perch on a rock that juts out across a long drop into dense undergrowth, ironbarks grilled against the low sun, pull out my book and read.

After a while, I look up to see the light play its final strains over the distance. Foothills recede and advance as their flanks blaze and fade intermittently, the side sheets of sunset crisping their outlines with soft detail. Tenant and the Brindabellas look majestic and aloof, closer somehow and yet wilder, more a part of the land of distant dreams. I hurry back across the hillside as my clock squeaks the hour, rush unthinking through a field of dead nettles and pass the tortured remnants of a joey. Further along: a mopoke feather with sepia zigzag notches. Another sign, in my hair alongside the other, above my left ear. Further along: a fox’s skull with one long canine. A sleepy moth emerges from the brain cavity and embarks upon the evening. A tiny thigh bone, pierced with a perfect hole at one extremity, lies forlorn among the roots of a rosehip. I pick it up and carry it along with the fox’s skull while I try to decipher the meaning behind their archaeology, the presence of a latent conversation stumbled upon by always focusing on the horizon. It is now salmon–pink edged with lilac, and ice&#8211blue at its rim. Kangaroos beside me, twin magpies in the path, symmetrically parting as I pass. Mirroring their motions I can see two other people on the track opposite, two tiny specks in sloppy joes, who run sideways off the track for a cyclist, then back again, like the magpies behind me.

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by Oliver Hunter

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c:OSPaneldomainsendicott-studio.com_endicott-studio.comgalgalhunterTwo.html`snowWhite.html`Two by Oliver Hunter — Journal of Mythic Arts — Autumn 2005 Issue — Endicott Studio“`Two`

At night their hair

Entwines them both

In nests of breathing

She draws her fingertips

Petal–light

Across the Braille of her eyelids

She whispers to her

Eyes blind

Daring her to come

So they go

The windowsill holds them both

Porcelain forms poised

Hair tangled in sleep

Their Virgin Mary hands linked

The night is talking

Her heart is talking

Her bones are shifting

Moonlight turns porcelain

Softly, dreamily, to feathers

Their arms are owl wings

Their feet talons

Four night eyes

Two heart–shaped faces

Drinking stars

White–velvet smiles across their lips

They dive.