Old Dogs

MOUNT ISA


it's the picture
not so much the place
that I remember most

we had
a five hour layover
during the bus trip
to Alice Springs
in the ninety degree plus heat
so we naturally found
a cool quiet pub
in which to pass
the unpleasant
interim

the beer
began to flow
and after a few hours
the remote mining town
seemed more the adventure
than the stupid blunder
it had appeared to be
upon our arrival

even the locals
started to smile at us
something we hadn't seen
to any great extent
on our journey
to that point

Kurt uncased
his 35mm camera
and began to snap
some candid shots
of the bar's inhabitants
everyone seeming to enjoy
the addition of Americans
to their everyday routine
even the pub's mascot
an elderly heeler
wagged his tail
and joined us
from under
the table

Kurt stumbled out
the wide-opened doors
into the blinding sunlight
and pointed his lens
back toward the bar
where he could see
me seated smiling
near the darkened doorway
holding aloft
a can of beer
the dog laying
before me
smiling in his own
canine way

we traveled on
and that moment
was lost
in our month
down under

I had
all but forgotten
that outback afternoon
until I received
an envelope
filled with photos
and I saw again
the glaring whitewash
of the pub's outer wall
bordering on overexposure
creating a dazzling halo
about the shadowed entrance
where the doorstep dog
glowed in his repose
between night and day
an illuminated guardian
of a nameless
gate

then
of course
there was fuzzy form
further back in the room
barely visible
yet
disturbingly clear

my inebriated likeness
seated and saluting
with some shiny icon
the light reflected off
the lenses of my glasses
opening two burning windows
into a troubled soul
giving me a feeling
of inescapable vertigo
as if from standing
too close to
a harrowing
precipice

I've lost
that phantom photo
somewhere
in the years

it seemed
to talk to me
of a time
in the future
that I'd rather
not acknowledge

I know
that it was only
a snapshot
of a young drunk
an old dog
and a timeless bar

I still can't help
but feel
that out
in the wastelands
the vision waits for me
to someday come
and complete
the picture
once again