Terra incognita

On the map of who I am, this is the ripped edge:
dragons, sea-beasts, a rented car outside his house.
Roses and natives. Red brick. Tight chest.
Can’t meet my eyes in the mirror.
Heels on driveway. New 4WD.
Blue door. Plain. Electrified gut. My finger on the bell.

A woman opens the door. Thickset. Short.
Silver hair. Pale eyes.
I was wondering if I could speak with Peter Chant?
He knew my family in the late 60s.
I hand her the photo, folded so he takes up the whole frame
my mother, her shiny beehive and smile, tucked inside.
What’s this about?
Cream skivvy. Lavender tunic. Clean nails.
I need to say it to him, first. The words. You’re my father.

I’d just like to speak with him. Please.
So polite. So needy.
Do you have a number where he can contact you?
Scrabble in my bag.
You’d think I’d be more organised.
Yes, I say that.
I hand her my card. She closes the door.
Thank you.
Blue door. Plain.
She still has the photo.

The car. Sunshine. Gulps of breath.
Cottesloe. Indian Ocean. Bare feet.
The waves are glassy then turbid. This is not my ocean.

Three days. Hotel room. Phone fully charged.
Pillow nest. Vikings binge. Mini-bar.
Boarding pass.

Rachael Mead

Listen to Rachael reading ‘Terra incognita’ (2:16)


Rachael Mead is a South Australian poet, writer and arts reviewer. She is published widely and the author of four collections of poetry, including The Flaw in the Pattern (UWA Publishing 2018). Her debut novel The Application of Pressure has just been published by Affirm Press (2020).

© text and audio 2020