by Varia Karipoff
The sole road to Bungarby was stark with its drought-barren fields and thin, closely shaved sheep. Tamara would walk along the still road near the monastery. She always wondered about the houses, hunched down on hills with ugly faces. One day, curiosity overcame her and she began breaking into them. Some of these houses were abandoned, not all like she suspected. Sometimes there’d be bullet holes pock-marking a roughly hung sheet of plaster and lurid words scrawled with what looked like shit. Probably a bored shearer leaving a job for the last time, she’d muse and turn on a tap to watch rusty water stammer out.
She’d sit at strangers’ kitchen tables. She’d imagine pouring tea for a dark haired, reticent husband who’d sit with his elbows on the table, his sleeves rolled up. She would open up tins of Danish biscuits and find children’s drawings or spare keys to sheds.
On the road again, there were old dance halls that once echoed with feet and pre-war teen romances but now stood like weathered carapaces, shelters for CFA meetings. The air would be sharp with cold and she loved how it felt in her lungs. The hem of her skirt would be crowned with burrs, her shoe colour long forgotten under dust. Out here, time was notched by cups of tea and gatherings of the Country Women’s Association. But really the Monaro knew no time; the land had always been steppe-like. And it kept drawing her back.
Varia is an arts writer and poet. She dreams that one day she could have the life of a migratory bird and divide her time between Siberia and the Victorian coast.