It was one those tears in the fabric, one of those rents, one of those places where you enter a stillness that is not so much outside time as more deeply embedded in it. I saw it first through the train window and only later found a way to get there past the derelict sheds, the daubed superannuated carriages, the dead engines, the great wheeled machines whose uses were forgotten and gone. A rectangular enclosure fenced with hurricane wire. A silver tank that had lost its bogies. Piles of blue metal on the beaten earth. Pampas grass. And everywhere, the ibis. It did not seem a likely place for them to be nesting, so far from water, nor could I imagine that they found food there either. It just seemed a place they wanted to be. I stood a little way off, close enough to see them clearly but not so close as to scare them away. In a patch of sun beside a pile of bricks. It was hot, I thought it was the heat making me dizzy; but when I moved into the shade and sat down on a piece of masonry, the buzzing in my ears increased to a near unbearable whining hum and then suddenly accelerated out of range and I was through, I was there, in the oasis. Not pampas grass, papyrus. Lotus pools where brown earth had been. Flash of silver from the meniscus of the pond and a reflection of palms shimmering there. This was what the ibis saw, this was why they were there. The illusion lasted only a moment and then I was back on my stone, back in the dust of the abandoned rail yard, faint with longing. I heard the metallic sound of wheels on rails and saw the grey train passing. That was me at the window, one minute I was watching myself go by, the next, looking out through smeared glass at that enigma of ibis about weedy gravel mounds behind a hurricane fence.
Summer Hill, NSW