LETTER TO DAVID MITCHELL
We secrete ourselves behind
our mythologies – no question!
better mileage than hiding behind a tissue
of lies. History claims us, if we are lucky, in the end.
You made your mark then stepped
out of youth’s circle, away from that campfire,
and into the dark –
a shuffle amongst memory’s leaves.
Through the rain the Sunday bell tolls over rooftops.
You’ve done it then – like the Pied Piper of Hamelin,
walked into the hills of home, you and your tune,
a regular confederate attended
by innumerable ghosts, alone.
Man Alone. Last Man Standing.
The perfect patriot to the heart’s drum shadowed
against your past in mythic retreat.
Dead Man Walking.
Seems your soul got caught up in the branches
of that pohutukawa tree at Cape Reinga – hangs
there like a busted kite that no wind from between
the stars can rescue.
The ivory tower has become an oubliette.
The White Goddess unceasingly builds her
nest out of horse’s hair – the broken bones of poets,
in the fork of an oak or kauri.
Ego imploded: from epiphany-to-catatonia
in an instant: you saw your love as an unattainable,
The puritan spirit cried out aloud,
‘No truce with the Furies.’
That imagined vertigo is the slow free-fall
of a sycamore seed spinning unseen
behind an abandoned church.
THE DESERT AS PALIMPSEST
‘St.Elmo’s fire’, ‘fata Morgana’, ‘will-o’-the-wisp’,
‘Castor and Pollux’, ‘ignis fatuus’, ‘corposant’,
corpus sanctum, the sacred body made
the pale and foolish fire
blown thin over bombed out craters and rubble:
pink-mist (pink mist) [US military slang] n.
A human body vaporized by ‘bunker-busting’
bombs that leave only a ‘pink-mist’ as sole evidence
of human remains; a term first used by the US military
during the Afghanistan war in 2002.
Over the pottery-coloured deserts,
a pattern of stars wraps around the earthly vessel.
The Tygris river unwinds its bloody bandage at sunrise
through Baghdad, small-arms fire mingles with
the muezzin’s call to the hour of prayer.
River mist or tank fire blurs the stately date palms.
Baghdad is a display case, smashed, memory wiped;
in the Iraq National Museum, the night-filled corridors
reek oil-lit rags and the condensation of fear beading
the foreheads of the iconoclasts
/ the swarming rabble
looting the underground vaults
plundering Sumerian and Babylonian artifacts
from 5000 BCE, stone bulls,
cuneiform tablets, ivory figurines, Nubian statuettes,
ceramic jars and urns –
Nineveh in fragments, Mesopotamia in ruins,
the City of Ur laid waste of its treasures in a city
cross-hatched by tank tracks – back to an engraved
granite-quartz block, next to the trimmed hedge,
under the playing fountain
fronting Liberty Enterprises guided by the principle:
‘war is the pressure valve of techno-determinism’.
Rashid the Pavement Artist
squats in the ruined market place
and makes a mosaic out of metal fragment
and glass shards – depicts scenes of Baghdad;
donkeys made of brick bits, Euphrates / Tygris rivers,
animal rib-bone curving back as scimitars
across a desert of potsherd:
life made frantic by the freedom anger engenders.
Let tribal memory float unperturbed upon
these two rivers where the sun places its golden harp.
Averroes holds in one hand ‘intellect’ in the other ‘faith’;
may peace descend on the desecration of this city.
Can the sandstorms erase the hanging question of
‘double truth’: is the shadow as real as the object that
casts it does ignorance make of anger a religion
are the lessons of destruction a philosophy to die by?
Bless this first land first witness to the Written Word.
UNMANNERLY WEATHER REPORTED
Sydney’s late Autumn rains pass,
in blue-grey patches; to blue distances, not violet.
A plane, visible by its noise, washes away.
The tiny, stitched lights of the oil refinery toward
Botany Bay ignite dusk.
The Warragamba Dam drops back a further few feet to
water restriction levels – no rain back of Bowrel
Night lowers fugitive as a water table.
‘Cyclone Barry’ fidgets over the Indian Ocean,
gnaws indolently along the West Coast to Port Headland.
Like a wisdom that comes with loss
that might even be expectation
the Morning Glory arrives off Burkestown out of
the Gulf of Carpentaria,
a rolling, unbroken cloudbank, 1,000 kilometres long.
Morning Star cresting
the cloudy wave frozen in its fall.
One fishing boat hovers over
The Deep Western Boundary Current, visible by its
inch long, white-tufted wake
chasing a bloom of plankton.
THE ROAD TO PEACE
A prayer originates in silence,
is a cry that finds its voice.
A chorus of people becomes belief.
I write out of shock and diminution.
lives empty into you endlessly.
A busload of children, a few with parents,
fragments blindingly, blood bright, brilliant day!
Forgive us our realities our distortion of them.
Life it appears is the last, and the biggest thing
in a give and take world,
unredeemable / non-negotiable.
The world and its wants log-jam in horror,
histories vaporize along with believers and doubters.
brute friend of darkness and distance.
Wind funnelling back through trees,
each crown capped in half-light against a sky brought
low to the horizon.
A tank grinding cobblestones romances
a hamlet through Central Europe.
Rush of air and leaf-storm in a darkening,
Now is, as always, then;
barns, hayricks, tanks.
An ecology of give & take [in] a boom & bust world.
First published in HARMONIC (Interactive Publications, 2008)