Poetry

Ideas of travel

6

 

It wasn’t the stars that frightened them.

It was the stairs.

You could climb to the height of the sky

but there were more than a thousand steps

and each one took a year off your life –

you would soon be lost in the time

of your great-great-grandparents

and before you knew it

no one would speak your language.

You would be shovelling snow off a hillside

and hunting for turnips,

the unborn image of yourself

spitting curses and alone

in the fiery darkness.

 

Beneath the coal, light.

Beneath the mud of the road

a child’s notebook filled with the letter A

and a ballerina’s slipper.

 

 

 

9

 

The road went further down under the trees, under fences and slowly decaying houses, below high-voltage barriers and under purple fields of bracken and thistles. Entering the ocean, it continued unperturbed across sunken valleys where cattle once grazed, over the skeletons of abandoned shepherds’ huts, below the stone slabs of the drowned city.

And beneath the road of your waking breaths the road of not-seeing, not-moving, the well-paved royal road of sleep, and under sleep the road of spiralling dreams – and under that, the lone solitary road, a road with no one on it, the road where all the dreams of a lifetime, remembered, not remembered, fuse together, stretched out under the world’s inner sky. The long quiet space of the one flash of light that held you.

 

 

 

16

 

Around myself

I place a wall.

Inside the wall

explosions, puffs of smoke,

an island erupts

between sea and sea,

on one side the moon,

on the other the sun,

and in between

a jagged row of mountains

reveals an infinite anfractuosity

of tiny loopings:

a temple summons me

to hold it in my hands

with care.

 

Inside the wall

infinity the size

of an eggshell.

Outside the wall

immense darkness.

 

The planet moves

in its slowly circling

uncertainty.

Ferns tremble.

Lightning tears a hole

in the dense summer air.

Across a tilting twilight floor

I carry a bowl

that is empty. 

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on December 19, 2020 as "Ideas of travel".

For almost a decade, The Saturday Paper has published Australia’s leading writers and thinkers. We have pursued stories that are ignored elsewhere, covering them with sensitivity and depth. We have done this on refugee policy, on government integrity, on robo-debt, on aged care, on climate change, on the pandemic.

All our journalism is fiercely independent. It relies on the support of readers. By subscribing to The Saturday Paper, you are ensuring that we can continue to produce essential, issue-defining coverage, to dig out stories that take time, to doggedly hold to account politicians and the political class.

There are very few titles that have the freedom and the space to produce journalism like this. In a country with a concentration of media ownership unlike anything else in the world, it is vitally important. Your subscription helps make it possible.

Select your digital subscription

Month selector

Use your Google account to create your subscription