Night Drive (Nike Sulway)

In early autumn
we are driving home together
midnight fog steaming
up from some unseen fault
in the world
the headlights catch
at a dead wallaby
humped over the unbroken centre line—
you step out on the road
bend close and touch the death
in her maternal body
you put down your hand
and feel
the small, enduring life of her child
You take a towel out of the back seat
lift the dead mother
wrap her
nurse her on your lap while we drive.
I set out
speeding down the range
the smell of blood and death and life
smearing across us as we urge
the phone to ring
urge a stranger to
tell us where to take her
this dead mother–this dying child
As the road straightens I steal a look
at your white face
at your strong hands
bare-knuckling on her ankle
rage and hope wrestle through you
Look, you say, holding out her warm foot,
So beautiful
Your hand cups her pouch
I can feel it moving, you say
When the call comes we
are almost down the range
illuminated with relief
at the news that someone
will meet us by the side of the road
a silver Rav near the RSL—a man
who knows what to do
drug dealers meet by the side of the road
in the dark of midnight
but this
is a wholly different exchange
you lift her body—a roadside pietà—
and he leans towards you
pulls back the flesh of her pouch
and squints at the squirm of pink life
she is carrying—
the life you have carried down the mountain—
You did good, he says. Alive, he says.
We drive up the range—streetlights
reappear, an owl
goes trailing through the dark
beside me, you unravel with relief—you touch
my hand—in that moment
everything is silent
Years from now
I will remember this moment
the blood on my shirt and my belly
the dirt and death and life on your hands
the rank flavour of an animal’s blood
pooling in the warm car—
each time we passed beneath a streetlight
I saw you again, and each time, it was
as though you had come back from death
or from some other dark and distant place
I remember thinking—
as each new part of you came into the light—Oh
there she is
(burning, always burning)
my love
(burning, always burning)
my life.


Nike Sulway
is the author of a handful of novels, short stories, and a few poems. She has received a number of literary awards, including the James Tiptree, Jr Award, which is for a work of speculative fiction that explores and expands our understanding of gender. She lives and works in Queensland.