'My Brother calls this place God's Country'

6 November 2019
- a poem by Todd Fuller

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My Brother calls this place God’s Country
A poem by Todd Fuller

Welcome to Branxton, we have two cemeteries and no hospital. This was the corner where I caught the bus.
Leave our bags in a pile, buy sweets, walk home. Repeat.
Don’t talk to Peter, he threw rocks at me last week.

That house belonged to Nana Dries, that one to Aunty Rita. The Thomas’s. The Thrifts. The Daggs. Wave to Rocky. I don’t know who lives in that one now, but I do know her dog barks at night.

One day the police sat at our corner just to breath test our neighbour.
One day the Olympic torch came to town. School closed early, we made signs, we cheered. One day I slept on the trampoline and Dad saw a shooting star.
I didn’t.
The first time my Mum let me ride to school on my own, I fell into that ditch.
I got stitches.
There is a scar.

When the floods came, we sandbagged that pub. Houses too, but after the pub. Some of the footy team watched and drank from behind the sandbag wall.
We filled the bags with sand.
Dad’s back still aches.

The waters came and they went. Dad’s backache remains.

Here my brother is the coach. He does a mean meat raffle on Friday.
He played rugby in the Watson’s yard, cricket on Railway Street and soccer everywhere else. He plays to win and calls this place God’s Country.
Now he lives up the road.
There is only one way he will leave.

The council locked up those toilets for a while, especially at night.
The story goes that Brent interrupted two men in there.
Strange things happened after dark.
I remember a night when a man stood in our front yard. He barked and swore and yelled.
I tiptoed to the back door and reached for the thick stick.

We would play murder in the dark.
Sometime after Chinese take-away. But only when the horses won.

Somehow Santa comes to Branxton every Christmas Eve.
Not by sleigh but by firetruck. This year, he looks like Mister Stevenson. A woman in an elf’s hat drives past the bus stop.
She throws catalogues out the window.
She waves and smiles. How is it already hot?
Marco Polo, tag you’re in.
When I go home Kyle still talks about the time Ashley farted.

That house belonged to the priest.
A cold shiver, it always makes me feel ill. I remember the yellow windows.
The coal train whirrs in the distance.
The bell calls for Sunday Mass, the school, the churches, one, two, three.
We would ride bikes when the evening sun drew long.
Actually they used to chase me on my bike. Until that night I was late for dinner.

At the end of my street are the railway tracks. One train in, one train out.
When I first left that train would bring me home.
All the rest are just coal.
When I was little my dad and I would walk the track, I learnt to count to big numbers from those coal carriages.
Thirty-seven, forty-two, once there were fifty.

Now my niece squeals with delight. She too counts the carriages. She too loves the trains.

Welcome to Branxton, we have two cemeteries and no hospital. Please drive carefully.