I lost her
in the shadow of Lost World,
a ragged plateau
baring its stone teeth
at the Queensland sky.
I lost Sayoko
who, in her few English words
said she would walk,
gesturing at the ancient teeth she’d been sketching all morning
crouched in that deferential way
a curled human boulder
in the high sheep country
scarf draped against the sting of alien insects
her head bowed at the feet of the escarpment.
I lost her at Lost World
where the stories already told and retold
wove a dark filter
as I held my hand against the sun
to squint at the looming stones.
Stones, said to be no wider than your foot
by those who'd dared to tread the trail
to that imagined land beyond
of hanging swamps and ancient caves
and the bones of those who could not turn back.
I lost her all day
and into the silent night
sitting alone at a wooden bench in the hostel
where last night she cooked tempura
taught me to toss a raw egg into hot soup
(a revelation, until I tried it back at home without the taste of danger.)
The same bench where I told her not to trek alone
to carry water in this unforgiving land
nodding as we exchanged our broken words.
I lost Sayoko
until she emerged, ghostly in the moonlight
scratched and bruised
a raw and wild excitement
in her breathless words
as she stuttered
that she had felt compelled
to climb higher, and higher, and higher
and was almost lost
to the jaws of the earth’s ancient howl.