Mary Pearson Andrew

The tree with the lights in it.

03 December 2019


the moment the cicada choir falls silent
packing an overnight bag
arriving at an airport gate just as the final boarding call is announced


making the first cut into a cake
Pepto-Bismol pink
the smell of Palmolive
waiting with my chin on the chin rest for the optometrist’s air puff test.


A series of controlled burn-offs on the Central Coast
have coincided with unusual weather patterns.

A blanket of smoke descends upon the Northern Beaches.

I awake at midnight with a sore throat,
thinking of Southern California.

The night I drove north as if possessed
along the Glendale Freeway to La CaƱada Flintridge
having seen footage of the area engulfed in flames
on the evening news.

That segment of California State Route 2 is
eight slithering lanes of freeway
climbing up from Echo Park to the Crescenta Valley
on this occasion eerily devoid of traffic
just hours after the evening rush.

The few cars I encountered speedily darted and wove around me
until shooting off around a bend into darkness.

The highway conveyor belt drawing me ever closer
to the UFO-like glow atop the foothills ahead.

The air quality worsened as I exited the freeway
and detoured around roadblocked suburban streets.
Smoke seeping through the car vents
giving palpability to the images I’d seen on TV.

The evacuation zone was still expanding
as the fire tore across the Angeles National Forest
devouring acre after acre of overgrown brush
before plummeting into suburbia.

Power was out in several areas.
Blackened street lights added to the
post-apocalyptic feel of the place
as I slowly approached the smoke plume.

Fire engines and news vans lined the streets.
I could drive no further.

The raging Station Fire ahead was barricaded like a crime scene.

I suddenly felt deeply ashamed to have entered
a disaster area simply to gawk.

I was a tourist on a Star Tour hoping the proximity to fame
would make my own life less ordinary.
That witnessing catastrophe would infuse my quiet existence
with a degree of danger and excitement.

I turned off the AM radio
made a U-turn
and began the drive back home.

08 April 2019


Summer was washed away by a wet March

The waterfall flowed again
and I moved the dehumidifier around the house
to keep mould at bay

The rainwater tanks overflowed
so we took long baths
and did many loads of washing

Some nights the rain was so loud
I awoke bracing myself
as if my rigid body could
     quiet the thunderous pounding on the tin roof
           prevent our house from sliding into the bay

My thoughts drifting out to the ocean
just there beyond the peninsula

How exposed and puny I felt
to be at the edge of all that turbulent sea.

24 February 2019


Our brazen pilgrimage
A budget flight to Geneva and a hired car

Reckless bumping over muddy fields
Bungled ninth grade French in a country pub

The old farmhouse with a motorbike parked outside
A letterbox by the door displaying the name Berger

We clutched beloved books to our chests, suddenly bashful
Beverly welcomed us in without hesitation, accustomed to this sort of intrusion

Charitably asked about our young lives over cups of black coffee
Presented a new book of essays as a souvenir

We followed Yves up to the hayloft to view his phantasmal paintings
The rainy apparition of a flowering lilac bush in the yard.

18 February 2019


A eucalypt in the yard cradled a nest for a devoted galah couple
Day after day they’d watch over their young
Forcefully expelling other birds who approached the tree
Leaving only to collect food for those expectant beaks
The intimidatingly primordial squawk of newborns ruling their days

It all seemed incredibly exhausting for the two adult birds
Did they longingly recall their previous lives of flying freedom?
Did they anticipate the day the baby birds would take flight?
Do birds suffer from empty nest syndrome?

You should put a metal guard on the tree to deter goannas
A few neighbours suggested
But I ignored the advice, trusting the parents’ vigilance
Not wanting to upset the natural order of things

I awoke one morning to frantic bird shrieks
When I stepped outside, the gum tree was ghostly quiet
I haven’t seen a galah in the bay for weeks now
Do birds mourn the loss of their young?
Do they ache at the futility of those weeks of servitude?

13 February 2019


While getting a cavity filled in a dentist’s chair in Los Angeles
I close my eyes and visualise the boat trip from Little Lovett Bay to Church Point
Untying from the long timber jetty and donning a sun-faded life vest
Lowering the two-stroke engine and turning the key
Glancing over at gum trees along the shore, dotted with white sulphur-crested cockatoos
The brief floating moment mid-journey when the tinny planes atop the water
The deceleration as the Pink Water Taxi’s floating office appears to my right
A customary wave at a fellow pilot as our vessels pass
Slipping the boat into reverse to slow into a park at the commuter wharf
Just as the sound of drilling stops.

06 February 2019


We left the city at dusk in your white delivery van
Cityscape abruptly morphed into Garden State Parkway conveyor belt of headlights and taillights and dark nothing on either side

The simplicity of the place was always most pronounced on nights like these
Transported from the city’s cacophony to the roar of waves crashing below the boardwalk
A Norman Rockwell painting of summertime Americana
Teenagers moved in restless clumps, looking for whatever trouble they could find in a town of summer homes, souvenir shops and a public drinking ban

I was already a young woman when I first visited
Yet somehow I remember it differently, as if I too spent the glory days of my childhood there
A twin bed next to sand dollar ornaments and framed nautical knots
Sundown dinners on the dock featuring your mother’s grape tomatoes
Your father proudly piloting his pontoon boat

I know the place is still there
Hurricane Sandy hit hard, but the boardwalk was spared
The black light back room still glows trippy neon nag champa behind the record store

Teens continue to prowl around — having always been young and thus feeling eternally so
Immortal, invincible
A seaside resort town oblivious to the passage of time.