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Automatica | Madeleine Dale

Even at eleven the sky is a flat paneled white, anxious metro energy trapped

between the freeway grind and the low scrape of horizon; the heat of us

huddled beneath segmented clouds. Someone has died—

a cousin, second or third—this is a funeral road-trip. My calves cramped,

footwell devotional, your paper-art precision in the passenger seat, double-

folded edges lacerating stale air. Tailgate diodes, little pools of moving light—

the drive is like a machine with its purpose hidden, northbound circuits

sealed under a steel stratus lid. This is a wake—

smoking out the window, the engine wailing. Your hand on my thigh, then

between my legs to keep me awake. An intercession. A service road at two,

out of streetlights’ binary tick, you pushing me back. This is part autopsy,

hands seeking out defect, some inherited flaw—a weakness in the femoral,

the subclavian. This is part committal, a body going down, slung into earth.

There is cold coffee in a thermos, your skull cradled by the seatbelt, sleep

in the backseat. By the bitter pall of morning, I will be red-eyed appropriate

and ashamed of this, the full bounty of being still alive.

Madeleine Dale is a Brisbane poet and word enthusiast. She holds a First Class Honours degree and University Medal in Creative Writing, and is currently completing an MPhil at the University of Queensland. Her work can be found in Wildness, Cordite, Voiceworks, Ibis House, and Meanjin, among others.

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