The flipside of the postcard (Rachael Mead)

I love the word pristine,         the naïve impossibility of it,
                                     all of us vulnerable, impure and trying to make do
             in a world where every postcard                                   has its grubby underside.
Nothing is untouched.             The bright air is packed with pollen
desperate for the sticky clutches of stigma.                          The soil
                          beneath our feet is a microbial orgy in the dark.                            Even
                                                          our atmosphere is just air the ozone is done with.
What seems to me a paradise is a cage to someone else,
             pulled between a salary and tradition,                    obligation heavy
as a stone in every pocket,                                      desperation burning marrow-deep.
             The wolves no longer howl on the mountain.        Marmots
                         chitter at hikers.         Tail-lights and horns on the winding road,
             more traffic flowing out than in.                             In the baite, the black weight
                         of roof presses down until walls buckle,                 a terminal swoon.
Everything feels the pressure.            It’s all on the move.                           Sometimes
I feel like I’m just here to take inventory.                             To witness the world’s
           slide to wherever the hell we’re going. I hear the word pristine and laugh.
                      But there’s no humour in it,                            like an undertaker chuckling
at a graveside joke as everyone
                                                                      to keep a grip.


Rachael Mead is a South Australian writer. Awarded the 2019 Australian Poetry and Nature, Art & Habitat Residency Eco-Poetry Fellowship in Northern Italy, she is published widely and the author of several collections of poetry, including The Flaw in the Pattern (UWA Publishing, 2018). Her debut novel The Application of Pressure has just been published by Affirm Press (2020).