“A Report on the Afterlife” by Michael Mintrom

The bus climbed slowly up the gravel road,
the inside all dust and sweat, smelling
of leather seats, of engine oil.
The travellers rubbed together, chatting,
recent arrivals to the peninsula,
sharing stories from past journeys,
other bus rides, other forms of transport.
We shimmer inside this space of dreaming.
Earlier in the day, we’d been strangers,
but close to one another. A hairdresser
dropped her girls with her mother to go off
shopping. A gardener, an early riser,
planted beetroot and carrots in straight rows,
the dark soil inviting, warm and soft.
Elsewhere, soldiers at a checkpoint
waved a truck down, tested for explosives,
asked questions of the driver, let it go.
Even at the market, nothing seemed
out of sorts, the breeze held no warning.
All peaceful on the surface, then chaos.
Things change, and we change also.
A bus climbs slowly up a gravel road.
Art works, ancient myths, journals of saints,
offer clues about where last journeys end.
In these harbour towns, we keep tradition,
moving houses, awaiting the ferry.
Some days, I venture out to the heads,
remembering the past, facing the gusts.

Michael Mintrom lives in Melbourne, Australia. Best known for his academic writing, he has recently published poetry in literary journals including Cordite, The Drabble, Ekphrastic Review, Meniscus, Quadrant, and takahē. He is a past winner of the University of Canterbury’s MacMillan Brown Prize for Writers.

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