Three Cantos


I hear the mountain cracking open
and all accusations and dread stuff of extinction
flowing out under myth, as before stories

were woven, before the venom of snakes
slowed growth down, before microwaves
and radiation showered Wandoo leaves,

and ritual celebration. I hear vocabulary
of haunting, a genesis dead before beginning,
trestle table unbalanced at the market;

I hear the molten river rising, sculpting
cavities like the Pompeii exhibition wooing crowds
flocking to the recently-opened Perth

Cultural Centre:WAY '79, State's
Sesquicentenary; where sea fell out, where sea
full formed with all contents shadowing stages

of evolutionary development, as supercharged
by meteorite strike, fuming with rays
not yet deflected by heat-shield melting

atmosphere, as equally fire and water in disaster
it spills like chemicals from a specialised
or hidden part of the body, this orificial

ripping of emergence, outpouring that'd wash away
haulpacks and harrowed benches, striking foliations,
as I say low-grade iron and specks of gold

won't distract cut-price melting furnaces,
carbon columns, mercury retorts, electrowinning,
screens that might diversify into other disgorged

or fancied pickings and needs have it, hydroclones,
Super G motors, agitators, shale shakers, degassers,
filters filters filters, I hear like the tinnitus

brought on by mountain cracking open
Mediterranean climate and so these companies
sell dissolving sell suspensions and smelting

sell engorgement to customers of Replogle Globes,
spreading geo-pathogens to worship at a busted altar,
to praise combustion, heated from loins

to manly chatter, hard hats on pegs, hard hats
on the decks of choppers, flak shooting up
from lightning strikes, as I remember dinosaurs

mutely coloured foregrounded or silhouetted
against spewing volcanoes enlaced by ferns, pterodactyls
aviating, feet tentatively reaching out of the water.

I heard this when the mountain cracked open,
when the sweat pooled at my feet and insects bashed
the curtained glass of the window: loud at the light.


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In the early afternoon heat
skin burns closer to the river,
algal threads tugged downstream,

anchored to the salty bed;
reflections and deflections
effulgent and steeped

in the ardour of bush space,
blinding as if after rapture
flesh is rejoined with radiance:

as damaged as maybe,
it relieves with caches of sheoaks
whirring in the subtlest breeze,

to revel in the immediacy
of York gum, Wandoo, and salmon gum,
soil types struggling against

the shattered circles of salinity:
gambuzi break the narrow river's
surface: concentric circles contact,

cancel, a stuttering brightness;
I ask Katherine, my daughter,
to navigate us out of there:

she follows the sound of the sheoaks,
patterns in the grass: ant trails,
compressions where kangaroos

have rested, patches of saltbush:
I remind her to listen for the apparent
quarrelling of pink and grey galahs

in semi-living sammy gums
up near the gravel road: resplendent
communiqués screeched

from hollowed trunks and branches:
warnings and indulgences,
nesting birds protecting families.

This our sharing and ascendence:
to raise, to lead, to follow:
admire the weight applied to each step,

to enrich through quietness
and let the pink-grey lights
shine brightest on our enquiry.

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This is back-engineering. I have passed through the gate
and been through the bowels of the earth, passed out
into lambency. Today I took the children to Gwambygine,

to the bird lookout over one of the few permanent pools
left to the river. We stood quiet and then in the splay
of a dead tree a pair of Splendid Fairy Wrens

appeared, the bright male a gift out of death,
all tropes shed and risen over the riparian foliage.
Though its colour was muted and mutable,

the twitching of its tail diced bathos, calling
the female to the tine of the fork opposite. Intense.
Though vulnerable and breaking down,

swamp sheoak, paperbark and even needle trees,
meliorated the floodfringe, bone-white with salt. The kids
were quiet but ecstatic, and said that though a sad window,

a precipice into a shadow place, the lookout becomes
a warning sign that passers-by just don't get: it's better
going there than avoiding the damaged remnants.

The light wasn't strong though it was hot, an overcast
valley that compelled you to breathe slightly short, the end result
a semi-neutrality that was deceptive. We read on a metal sign:

possums might feed at night, hiding at day in a paperbark hollows
along the river, but foxes have probably caught them out,
on nights where dark translates the lambent less and less.