I have seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different
– T. S. Eliot
As it rose for the Magi, a pink flush through the gum trees
the bed that held his tortured, gagged body,
fifteen months after a stroke lies empty
in a house of wheelchairs, commodes, sheepskin underlay, silver
cutlery, catalogue of books, TAB coupons, crucifix, a rose bowl,
teapots, chai wallahs, monotonous parrots.
My father gave me many gifts. Speech. Poetry. Mathematics.
A thousand miles from sleep’s past perfect, mouthing
rest, breathe as one, last, aware there’s no physical trace back,
death winnowing time; a dying born within me
Grief deepens, sullied by the crazed voices of race, persecution, mixed blood,
alcohol, the bullying of a dysfunctional family,
I message a cousin, dust scraping my throat,
murmurings of Mozart, Brahms, Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, ’70s rock’n’roll
rising from the basement.
To devote a whole lifetime to vocation,
the veritable body shrinks
I suppose every family house has a vault, an attic,
drapes tragically torn,
tired upholstery, saggy pillows, bifocals, bric-a-brac
periodicals, pending the skip bin
I know no culture, language or law can escape the quantum dream
of a world owned by night, turning us from partial light, full circle.
It is the way the day brightens yet summer birds dial out
their gentle, plaintive rituals across the valley.
Loyal and insistent, cicadas rouse, stuttering praise,
hammering the point
all morning and all afternoon,
as everything falls apart.
Friday, Victor Harbor
Streetlights are hunched sentinels spilling their orange glow
across streaky, puddled bitumen,
rude antennas over the Comfort Inn logo
at Victor Harbor.
I think of eagles tracking high, hovering, as I drove across the mallee,
yellow finches, shot after shot in the crimson eucalypts
then settlement of sight. Crush the witness within.
Evaluate with a distrust of simile, it’s too colonial. I don’t ask
to bewilder myself in lyric,
but wake in fear of this bond, wind screeching, dawn’s escort,
the melody of solitude as magpies offer praise:
Norfolk pines, Brisbane palms, bins, outdoor furniture,
stainless steel mesh, terracotta music.
Breakfast digested with desire’s anxiety of being desired,
and Telstra fuck-ups,
My SIM card pending authorisation, the
magpies defying social
distancing with their duos, remind me of
an act of everyday cruelty in childhood, (not being the signature
narrative) when a gardener came devotedly to mow the lawn
and my sister pitilessly mocked
until, like paired magpies, we could not
suppress laughing, until
he walked away, leaving me shamed.
Now driving to Cape Jervis, sunlight illumines
pine needles, talons
clutching the lumpy remains of roadkill
I pay my respects to the Ngarrindjeri, Ramindjeri and Kaurna peoples,
rightful inheritors of this unceded land.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Apr 10, 2021 as "Two poems".
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