Of Dipping and Grey Aliens

By Peter, 70. South Fremantle, WA

Whatever colour things were,
whatever Dad put in the water
turned us then everything else
scummy; transformed sheep
into grey aliens — sleek-headed,
snake-eyed, daring to bare teeth.

I don’t recall it ever raining
during Dipping Week when,
over-excited, I ran alongside
that murky baptismal trough,
sometimes into Dad’s arm
holding me back from slipping,
when I’d check his hazel eyes
for … would he ever?

but he never did, so I’d go back
to shoving slimy forms along
with my bandaged straw broom
’til they could clamber up the ramp,
mill about, complaining to friends,
meander under shade, shaking
heads, gradually steaming off
alienness into yellow light.

Then came the circular dip
with all its prefab bits lying
haphazard in the grass ’til Dad
had time to put them together,
following instructions until
frustration peaked and he found
his own way to the end
with only a bolt or two left over.

But the damned thing worked,
and dipping became boring,
the aliens unconvincing.
Probably would work again
if someone were to back in
the blue Fordson, re-attach
the belt, set her to high idle
then let out the clutch.

The trough’s weeded up now,
and only the wind soughs
round the shower’s cracked concrete —
when did that happen?
suggestive of all those old sounds
and motions which are enough
to resurrect the forms
still so riotous in my head:

Dad, Mum, us kids; flipperty dogs;
those grey aliens disguised as sheep.

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