Almanac Poetry: ‘Exhale’ – Tommy Mallet





Work’s hard, has broken a lot
of my body, wrists, hands.
It feels good to have a few days off,
end up in another part


of the state.



The wife and I fought on the way up.
She’s on her blood,


so won’t let it go.


Glenn and I ease the tension by
leaving the women to talk,
with kids,
while we do a few chores, then
lazily roam a scratchy old flint mine track,
taking in the prehistoric, dry valley below,
trading stories of marital doom and gloom,

reducing ourselves,
to clichés.






The kids run riot in Glenn’s
beautiful, tired, once-sheep-farmer’s house,
ignoring the eucalypt views
that fill every window,

while he, his ex Jodi, and I
go through pleasant routines
of various topics of parenthood.

My wife is still sullen
hours past reason,

achieving her goal of
making it hard, under this casual tone,


to breath.



Glenn, Jodi and I drink,
talking shit past sunset
as the kids, and my wife,



It’s awkward, at times.


They split up four months ago,
she’s living in the city.
He has bouts of suicidal depression,
is on heavy medication,
yet here we are
for a night, that’s drenched with the hint
of summer,
yet holds just enough bite
to be defiantly not.






Jodi and Glenn spent most of the day
handling their kid,
who’s dealing with their separation
very poorly.
It’s clearly worn them down.



Their eyes start to droop,
setting further and further
back into nodding heads,
as we pass their 10.30 norm.



I give a burst
of personality, booze, stories,
until Glenn’s body reinflates,
then Jodi’s,
without them realising,

leaving an open door.




there’s no wind, or moon.
Everything’s still, there’s nothing there,


we’ve been cut from all moors.






It all reminds me of that time
I took that lovely, weird Christian girl
I somehow almost married,
deep into the temperate rainforest
in heavy winter rain,
to cross a flooded old river bridge,
water thundering not two inches over
its surface,
to feel the power of thousands of flowing tonnes




Then, on the other side,
kept walking,
as the track turned to mud,
disappearing into the pitch black of thick canopies.

I suggested we push on
that extra kilometre,
beyond common sense, easily,
despite having no torch,
just to see what we were not meant to,

the things that happen,
when trees fall and nobody hears.






A native koala,
smaller than those on the remote
rainforest edge where we live,
rattling the once-sheep-farm gullies and dams with
rough-throated pride,


framing one of Glenn’s stories
within a tangent,
carrying the words;
A beautiful first page.

I tell him that would be a great
chapter title, or even book name,
then spend the next few never-ending minutes
imagining the words under them,

as I briefly mention
waking up one morning, with the
sentence; And that’s why it hurt,
inexplicably on my breath.

How I decided to write a novel around it,
make it the last line,
phoning in sick, on the spot,


taking days off work at the factory


to get it started and done.



Then, of a date with an ex,
a goddess, a kind woman, who I knew could just never
quite fit,
about heading from the bush
fully aware of the night’s impending hurt.
“You know how
you’ve thrown up, but can still feel that bit
stuck in your throat?”

Jodi is besotted with
the metaphor,
looks happy, alive.



Then Glenn’s seamlessly back to telling


his original tale.






I watch their toes while I talk,
the intimate way they almost touch,
and do touch,
and don’t again,

and do.


These awkward realities,
the both teenaged and timeless body politic of
lust, comfort,
familiarity, uncertainty,
and predetermined regret.

This shit-fight to reclaim long gone moments,
create nows.
For broken hearts to find intimacy
one last
impossible time.


They’re fascinating, everything,
those toes,
filling me with hope and sadness,
and revelry of life,
and more and more alcohol.



The pregnancy of their wavering contact,
has me transfixed
for hours.






The house pressurizes with the breaking of
slight warmth,
as somewhere above the ranges,


within the dark,
a cold front drops,
creating a rising breeze.



Neither Glenn or Jodi notice as it frames them,
animated, telling tour stories.


Of the decades they were in bands together
between playing as a duo,
while their body language shifts again,
with memories,
into comfortable grooves,


pain put on hold.





Face animated,
tells a story of seeing two lost 13 year old girls,
having walked 14 hours,
finally building up enough pain and hunger
to overcome fear
and stick out their thumbs.

How they ran and hid when he stopped.

Of how he had to overcompensate,
act fatherly,
the friendly geek,
avoid bush tropes,
just to get them into the ute, to safety.

Feeling the lack of eye contact, palpable hunger,
in these pretty young things.

Of his advice;
“Next time, look for a really well kept farm, and
knock on the door.”



Then, the sealer,
50kms later,
when he dropped them off
at a rural train station,
and was leaning to say good-bye –
seeing the biggest, most beautiful, freed smile
on one of the girls.

The magic of this image I never saw
stays with me, glowing.

I tell Glenn it always will,
because it always will.

This musician


who doesn’t realise he
doesn’t need music
to play tunes.






I tell him, and Jodi, of picking up
a Croatian brother/sister pair of contortionists
and their Italian musician friend
on bush’s edge, on dusk.


Of immediate trust,
my head ending up lazily nested
in the female contortionist’s lap,
while the Italian woman played 1000 year old
Sicilian folk songs
to us,
over lost midnight waterfalls,
framed by a 3/4moon.

Of none of us having anything,
except everything we pooled,
and ate and drank,
and each other,

of course,



for a few hours.





Jodi tells Glenn and I
of moments of serendipity,
of stress and bad audience members,
and bad faith,
and the horrible man before Glenn,
and humour,
and share victories on tour,


before falling behind,
but remains happy to listen
as Glenn and I
reveal ourselves
through stories, that become more and more
painfully personal,


these tunes.





Eventually, they go,
dissipating into love and more awkwardness.
A last night together,
with or without sex,

one of probably dozens,
off and on,


him still madly in love,
despite his “coming to terms” bullshit,
these predictable words,
stupid dances we
feel duty
to play.

But enter into,
in this moment,
of a night past what was meant to be,
beyond forgotten rain-flooded bridges,


in relived invincibility.




I wonder, once they’ve gone,
and I settle in with the last of my bourbons,
to write some time past 2am,
if Glenn remembered
the conversation we had while roaming valley tracks
earlier in the day,


a lifetime gone,
how I believe that life is a series of moments?

That, what if time is not linear, but a pulse?

That somewhen in it,
these moments that last forever,
are lasting forever,
as sure as, in their second they go.

That, what if, the goal should be


to make
as many of those moments that last forever,
the good ones,
for yourself, or others, as possible,


knowing somewhere in time
they, and you, will always be.






The house slightly pushed and pulls,
small, loose things knock harmlessly,
as I wonder how many moments
Glenn lived tonight?


Is living now,


behind forgotten hours doors, with a woman who,
for 18 years, obviously loved him,
but can’t live with him




When I’m done writing, not long before dawn,
I sneak into our room,
the guilty thief,
having once more stolen family time,
to kiss my wife gently,
as she mostly sleeps beside our


4 year old.

I keep them coming,
soft, warm,
until, finally,
after so many wasted hours,
her body exhales.



Lifeline is a free and confidential support service which can be reached on 13 11 14.

Beyond Blue  can be reached on 1300 22 46 36.



More from Tommy Mallet can be read Here.





More poetry from Almanac Poetry can be read HERE


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  1. Malby Dangles says

    Wonderful poem, Tommy. I felt I was there. Thanks for sharing

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