This Elephant Earth

The zoo was an enclosure in the northern suburbs

of childhood. We visited twice, maybe three times

in three summers, a strange wintergarden of sun

and old animals tiredly lumbering around the paths

of unusually tropical vegetation and wire cages.

I remember snippets of detail, birds, tiny darting things

which flew free enough in space wired open,

the camel ride, poor creature, just the one,  bending up

down endlessly for a white child’s pleasure. Somewhere in

the recesses of memory, a funicular of sorts floats

above open pits of lions, tigers, a black rhino, elephants.

 

Now flying high across the country, all detail

and particularity disappearing at this distance,

I look down on this elephant earth of ours

at old velvet folds and contours wrinkled

with age, worn like a slow stationary animal

shimmering in the sun. That light grey

glistening sweat of skin turned in tanning

to hide reveals acres of burnt trees, a blunt

gash in the tread of treed valleys. Fields

roll flat like taut soles. Sea, horizon,

ivory cloud tusks disappear into a blur at

the end of the world as if the very things

of people, traffic, noise, buildings, zoos cease

from this moment.

 

Memory returns the minutae

reminds me of life lived on this elephant earth

of a child in awe of the pained watery eyes,

those endless depths patiently meeting mine.

 

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How to write the sound of a new moon

Turning in silent beauty

Like a melody of waves

Washing down

Washing down.

 

I look up to starlight

Night lines moving

Swiftly, out of sight.

There go the starlings

 

In search of illusive

Scents, moon music,

Tonight in flight.

I close my eyes to listen

 

For the world has become

A new moon’s sun

And all is still.

All is still.

 

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Breathing

Wood breathes books, breathes plants

Breathes paper that floats like lily-pads

At dawn. I choose to sit beneath a tree

Instead of lugging soil, watching pond petals

Unfold a tale I do not know. I read

Words written in wood, turning pages

Which breathe a scent of pine despite

Their long silence on a shelf. I read

The tempo of every day, taking the measure

Of time in the silence of breath.

 

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a garden settles

like the hush of sun’s ink

whispering near the horizon

of words, hesitant expressions

setting down possibilities

amid morning thoughts. I awake

to garden reverie, the bright east

light urging me up though

I linger in the scattered leaves

of sleep until day is near. Settling

seems too silent a sound-bell;

settling exudes a confidence,

the sound of a garden tuning

salvia bud to rose leaf as finely

as a quill’s quiver on the stave

of a manuscript.

 

 

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in which a spanish shawl flowers

in a garden of lushness

in plenitude and abundance

deep pink settles in the arms

of the greenest of leaves

in the heart of a garden

in the heart of my heart

where blood beats again

on the eve of your birth.

 

twenty months.

all this long time

after your departure

our spanish shawl spread

waited, gestated

until I had rested,

to return and flower

in remembrance of tomorrow

 

 

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Death of a Politician

“The line’s broken,” one PM said of another.

Nobley at 98. The aged contemplate

 

Demise, purpose, choices made

In the service of the nation.

 

We mourn that we still await

The child of Gough and Bob

 

And Paul whose times have

Gone in all but us who of late

 

See banality, performance, indifference

Take centre stage. Lineage

 

Departs so easily,

The line quickly broken

 

Though they have made our

History,  made forgotten lives

 

Live again. It’s time

For me to remember.

 

You left your home

To immigrate

 

In the service

Perhaps, of your family

 

To vibrancy,

So utterly free

 

And yet so quickly

The dream dissipated

 

And fell apart. I am

Here because you dreamed

 

And with his death

I mourn so as not

 

To break the line

My mother, who railed

 

Against the sleepwalkers

Of a dulling nation.

 

“I am thinking”

“Just let me think.”

 

Now I think that time

1972 to 1975

 

When you felt alive.

Before you died inside.

 

 

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