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End of year report (letter to Hisham)

The following is a poem commissioned by The Conversation from Sydney City Poet, Kate Middleton on the year that was.

Did you read about the MARS-500 simulation? Six men in isolation sharing a broken English through their long imagined mission. Emerging in November, after 520 days “away,” into a strange, familiar, world. Stepped out, choked up to find the shuttle program era ended. Stepped out to find even that the realm to which they travelled was new again, with images of flowing water evident in the arid red — like some trickle in the furthest stretch of the Murray-Darling basin. Stepped out to find that lakes were found beneath the skin of a moon of Jupiter, like untapped desert aquifers. Or in the nearer reaches Special Relativity overturned as bygone local law, an artificial windpipe transplanted, taking hold as new hope.

Now late-December, I marvel at the passing of another year: that even now my letter is not sent. In January I began to write to you, even before the Arab Spring took hold, and then each month I tried again, told you that after my own years away exile itself seemed palpable as any land — and worried at my promised letter amid news of this revolution. Never finished. When Muammar fell I wondered, too, if you heard more news of your father among the disappeared, yet revived from time to time in rumour…

Far removed from this, I found myself in Sydney: scouting secret places in the city, absorbed by local news and gossip, the endless register: births, deaths and marriages; break-ups and divorce; carbon tax debate and football finals. And my year? I moved hemispheres, and finally wrote this letter.

Of course, despite my slow correspondence, we were always only moments from some newsfeed, from “connection,” as we reloaded suitcases and floated alongside other travellers, just two more hapless modern circumnavigators somehow never crossing paths. The messages I got to you were short, passed face-to-face, hand-to-hand, through warm press of mutual friend. And what better news this: such warm embrace — even when by proxy?

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