Petra White


The fattest eternity is childhood,

minutes stuffed with waiting

and the just-there world

deferred to an afterlife of joy

where magically we outgrow

what could tell us what to do:


we sat cross-legged on the floor, quiet

as the glad-wrapped biscuits on the supper-table,

a summer school night boiling over

with nightmare prayers

in somebody's Adelaide living room

fed air by a cooler on rollers,


our pastor bellowing at the helm,

hell's ore in his flame-cheeks.

Gorby, Reagan and Thatcher went

chasing round his head with bombs:

explode the world and bring

the roaring-back of God-the-parent!


The grown-ups stamped their thonged

and sandalled feet on the carpet:

the mortgages and what they worked for,

the chip pan bubbling every night at six,

the hand-me-downs all forced to fit

oh take it Satan, it's all yours . . .


Any day we'd be whooshed up to heaven;

and the kids at school, their parents,

cousins, dogs,

sucked up and funnelled

into Hell's gated suburb, far out

where no public transport would travel.


But my brother and I were saving up

for a trampoline: it's coming required

every cent of our faith

that we might allowed to remain

in the human world a bit longer,

to have it and jump on it: to believe


in the leaden feet sunk in the cool summer grass,

the springy canopy shooting us up

above the apple trees, all day and well into dusk,

touching heaven with our hair,

our tongues, our fingertips, then somersaulting,

shrieking and tumbling


back down into the miracle, or whatever

it was: the thing not yet taken, the present-tense

cast off by the adults for the kids to play with.