Contemplating Deadlines

by Victoria McGrath

In a bus of poets on the road to Bungonia
and we laugh as we compare deadlines
that we won’t be nailing today.
Someone quotes a famous writer,
how much he said he loved them,
“the whooshing sound as they race by”.
She probes her mobile to check that it was
Douglas Adams. We’ve been chortling, but
as one we sober, pause to scope the scenery,
as each of us considers what we won’t achieve
because we chose to respond to an email
inviting us to visit the Gorge this day.

We’ve left Goulburn and the highway well behind,
tussocked paddocks and the beef. All is sclerophyll
and fern, burnt bark, thin trunks as straight
as counting-strokes, the crossbow missing so
we can’t collect them into fives. Which reminds me
of submissions due by five tonight,
that won’t get done. Deadlines. Dead lines.

And once the thought is thunk I see them
everywhere: side lanes with chains of mail boxes,
telephone lines, power cables strung above
the painted stripe at the road’s edge,
always leading somewhere else. Dead lines.
Time’s reminders. Number sticks, indicating
where we’re up to. Narrow fingers pointing
to the next big thing.

Victoria McGrath is a poet from regional NSW who has been widely published in journals and anthologies in Australia and the US, including Cordite, Australian Love Poems, Panoply and Best Australian Poems. She was nominated for the US Best of the Net Awards and shortlisted for the Newcastle Poetry Prize.