Drive-in

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Brisbane’s best was at Capalaba,
way out the back in red loam orchard country.
Cruising silent through citrus groves
dark except for our headlights
and the tail-lights of others round roadbends
red and veering on and off.

Light enough when we set out
to see huge custard apples
breasting barbed wire fences.
Lobed in pendulous, hard-green sections
with tear-drop, copper-stained exudate.

The screen, stark, tilted, white
rearing out of the trees,
our indigenous amphitheatre.
The ticket man in cap and uniform,
the wide open, skillion-roofed, fluorescent-lit canteen;
popcorn, chips, orangeade with ice
in paper beakers, so cold.
Deep brown jelly babies, Fantales to unfold,
Jaffas, ice-creams.

The unreal, airy feel,
like Martians arriving at their destination
in a strange galaxy
as we slid into place, pre-ordained
and connected the grey, metallic speaker.

In December, all lights extinguished
fractious teenagers rustling in distant cars
a few babies wailing,
the windows wound up against mosquitoes,
the stars popping above the screen
its colours and voices sliding
and a wall of Christmas beetles hurling, drumming.
We had to go home early.

The frenzied tedium of leaving.
People forgetting to disconnect
racing, braking, to be first in line
the music still playing tinnily from abandoned speakers
irate drivers blinded by headlights,
leaning out their windows
snarling obscenities.

Now curled half-asleep
as the car rushes humming
through cold air, our parents murmuring
as we breach the outskirts.
The familiarity of the amber lights at the Fiveways
blinking eerily on and off.
The streets utterly deserted.
In our own suburb the air changed by our adventuring
wiped over by a glassy polarity.
Last scene before home,
the ice factory at Stones Corner
gleams like an underwater Antarctic refrigerator.

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