The New Hieroglyphics
In the World language, sometimes called
Airport Road, a thinks balloon with a gondola
under it is a symbol for speculation.
Thumbs down to ear and tongue:
World can be written and read, even painted
but not spoken. People use their own words.
Latin letters are in it for names, for e.g.
OK and H2S O4, for musical notes,
but mostly it's diagrams: skirt-figure, trousered figure
have escaped their toilet doors. I (that is, saya,
Ego, watashji wa) am two eyes without pupils;
those aren't seen when you look out through them.
You has both pupils, we has one, and one blank.
Good is thumbs up, thumb and finger zipping lips
is confidential. Evil is three-cornered snake eyes.
The effort is always to make the symbols obvious:
the bolt of electricity, winged stethoscope of course
for flying doctor. Prams under fire? Soviet film industry.
Pictographs also shouldn't be too culture-bound:
A heart circled and crossed out surely isn't.
For red, betel spit lost out to ace of diamonds.
Black is the ace of spades. The kind of spades
reads Union boss, the two is feeble effort.
If is the shorthand Libra sing , the scales.
Spare literal pictures render most nouns and verbs
and computers can draw them faster than Pharaoh's scribes.
A bordello prospectus is as explicit as the action,
but everywhere there's sunflower talk, i.e.
metaphor, as we've seen. A figure riding a skyhook
bearing food in one hand is the pictograph for grace,
two animals in a book read Nature, two books
Inside an animal, instinct. Rice in bowl with chopsticks
denotes food. Figure 1 lying prone equals other.
Most emotions are mini-faces, and the speech
balloon is ubiquitous. A bull inside one is dialect
for placards inside one. Sun and moon together
inside one is poetry. Sun and moon over palette,
over shoes etc are all art forms — but above
a cracked heart and champagne glass? Riddle that
and you're starting to think in World, whose grammar
is Chinese-terse and fluid. Who needs the square-
equals-diamond book, the dictionary,to know figures
led by strings to their genitals mean fashion?
just as a skirt beneath a circle meanas demure
or ao similar circle shouldering two arrows is macho.
All peoples are at times cat in water with this language
but it does promote international bird on shoulder.
This foretaste now lays its knife and fork parallel.
Predawn In Health
The stars are filtering through a tree
outside in the moon's silent era.
Reality is moving layer over layer
like crystal spheres now called laws.
The future is right behind your head;
just over all horizons is the past.
The soul sits looking at its offer.
Travels With John Hunter
We who travel between worlds
lose our muscle and bone.
I was wheeling a barrow of earth
when agony bayoneted me.
I could not sit, or lie down,
or stand, in Casualty.
Stomach-calming clay caked my lips,
I turned yellow as the moon
and slid inside a CAT-scan wheel
in a hospital where I met no one
so much was my liver now my dire
preoccupation. I was sped down a road.
of treetops and fishing-rod lightpoles
towards the three persons of God
and the three persons of John Hunter
Hospital. Who said We might lose this one.
Twenty days or to the heat-death
of the Universe have the same duration:
vaguely half a hour. I awoke
giggling over a joke
about Paul Kruger in Johannesburg
and missed the white court stockings
I half remembered from my prone
still voyage beyond flesh and bone.
I asked my friend who got new lungs
How long were you crazy, coming back?
Five days, he said. Violent and mad.
Fictive Afrikaner police were at him,
not unworldly Oom Paul Kruger.
Valerie, who had sat the twenty days
beside me, now gently told me tales
of my time-warp. The operative canyon
stretched, stapled, with dry roseate walls
down my belly. Seaweed gel
plugged views of my pluck and offal.
The only poet whose liver
damage hadn't been self-inflicted,
grinned my agent. A momentarily
holed bowel had released flora
who live in us and will eat us
when we stop feeding them the earth.
I had, it did seem, rehearsed
the private office of the grave,
ceased excreting, made corpse gases
all while liana'd in tubes
and overseen by cockpit instruments
that beeped or struck up Beethoven's
Fifth at behests of fluid.
I also hear when I lay lipless
and far away I was anointed
first by a mild metaphoric church
then by the Church of no metaphors.
Now I said, signing a Dutch contract
in a hand I couldn't recognise,
let's go and eat Chinese soup
and drive to Lake Macquarie. Was I
not renewed as we are in Heaven?
In fact I could hardly endure
Earth gravity, and stayed weak and cranky
till the soup came, squid and vegetables,
pure Yang. And was sane thereafter.
It seemed I'd also travelled
in a Spring-in-Winter love-barque of cards,
of flowers and phone calls and letters,
concern I'd never dreamed was there
when black kelp boiled in my head.
I'd awoken amid my State funeral,
nevermore to eat my liver
or feed it to the Black Dog, depression
which the three Johns Hunter seem
to have killed with their scalpels:
it hasn't found its way home,
where I now dodder and mend
in thanks for devotion, for the ambulance
this time, for the hospital fork lift,
for pethidine, and this face of deity:
not the foreknowledge of death
but the project of seeing conscious life
rescued from death defines and will
atone for the human.
Flowering Eucalypt In Autumn
That slim creek out of the sky
the dried-blood western gum tree
is all stir in its high reaches:
its strung haze-blue foliage is dancing
points down in breezy mobs, swapping
pace and place in an all-over sway
retarded en masse by crimson blossom.
Bees still at work up there tack
around their exploded furry likeness
and the lawn underneath's a napped rug
of eyelash drift, of blooms flared
like a sneeze in a redhaired nostril,
minute urns, pinch-sized rockets
knocked down by winds, by night-creaking
fig-squirting bats, or the daily
parrot gang with green pocketknife wings.
Bristling food tough delicate
raucous life, each flower comes
as a spray in its own turned vase,
a taut starbust, honeyed model
of the tree's fragrance crisping in your head.
When the japanese plum tree
was shedding in spring, we speculated
there among the drizzling petals
what kind of exquisitely precious
artistic bloom might be gendered
in a pure ethereal compost
of petals potted as they fell.
From unpetalled gun-debris
we know what is grown continually,
a tower of fabulous swish tatters,
a map hoisted upright, a crusted
riverbed with up-country show towns.
On Home Beaches
Back, in my fifties, fatter that I was then,
I step on the sand, belch down slight horror to walk
a wincing pit edge, waiting for the pistol shot
laughter. Long greening waves cash themselves, foam change
sliding into Ocean's pocket. She turns: ridicule looks down,
strappy, with faces averted, or is glare and families.
The great hawk of the beach is outstretched, point to point,
quivering and hunting. Cars are the stuff at its back.
You peer, at this age, but it's still there, ridicule,
the pistol that kills women, that gets them killed, crippling men
on the towel-spattered sand. Equality is dressed, neatly,
with mouth still shut. Bared body is not equal ever.
Some are smiled to each other. Many surf, swim, play ball:
like that red boy, holding his wet T shirt off his breasts.
The Meaning Of Existence
Everything except language
knows the meaning of existence.
Trees, planets, rivers, time
know nothing else. They express it
moment by moment as the universe.
Even this fool of a body
lives it in part, and would
have full dignity within it
but for the ignorant freedom
of my talking mind.
An Absolutely Ordinary Rainbow
The word goes round Repins,
the murmur goes round Lorenzinis,
at Tattersalls, men look up from sheets of numbers,
the Stock Exchange scribblers forget the chalk in their hands
and men with bread in their pockets leave the Greek Club:
There's a fellow crying in Martin Place. They can't stop him.
The traffic in George Street is banked up for half a mile
and drained of motion. The crowds are edgy with talk
and more crowds come hurrying. Many run in the back streets
which minutes ago were busy main streets, pointing:
There's a fellow weeping down there. No one can stop him.
The man we surround, the man no one approaches
simply weeps, and does not cover it, weeps
not like a child, not like the wind, like a man
and does not declaim it, nor beat his breast, nor even
sob very loudly - yet the dignity of his weeping
holds us back from his space, the hollow he makes about him
in the midday light, in his pentagram of sorrow,
and uniforms back in the crowd who tried to seize him
stare out at him, and feel, with amazement, their minds
longing for tears as children for a rainbow.
Some will say, in the years to come, a halo
or force stood around him. There is no such thing.
Some will say they were shocked and would have stopped him
but they will not have been there. The fiercest manhood,
the toughest reserve, the slickest wit amongst us
trembles with silence, and burns with unexpected
judgements of peace. Some in the concourse scream
who thought themselves happy. Only the smallest children
and such as look out of Paradise come near him
and sit at his feet, with dogs and dusty pigeons.
Ridiculous, says a man near me, and stops
his mouth with his hands, as if it uttered vomit -
and I see a woman, shining, stretch her hand
and shake as she receives the gift of weeping;
as many as follow her also receive it
and many weep for sheer acceptance, and more
refuse to weep for fear of all acceptance,
but the weeping man, like the earth, requires nothing,
the man who weeps ignores us, and cries out
of his writhen face and ordinary body
not words, but grief, not messages, but sorrow,
hard as the earth, sheer, present as the sea -
and when he stops, he simply walks between us
mopping his face with the dignity of one
man who has wept, and now has finished weeping.
Evading believers, he hurries off down Pitt Street.
Blats booted to blatant
dubbing the avenue dire
with rubbings of Sveinn Forkbeard
leading a black squall of Harleys
with Moe Snow-Whitebeard and
Possum Brushbeard and their ladies
and, sphincter-lipped, gunning,
massed in leather muscle on a run,
on a roll, Santas from Hell
like a whole shoal leaning
wide wristed, their tautness stable
in fluency, fast streetscape dwindling,
all riding astride, on the outside
of sleek grunt vehicles, woman-clung,
forty years on from Marlon.
Poetry And Religion
Religions are poems. They concert
our daylight and dreaming mind, our
emotions, instinct, breath and native gesture
into the only whole thinking: poetry.
Nothing's said till it's dreamed out in words
and nothing's true that figures in words only.
A poem, compared with an arrayed religion,
may be like a soldier's one short marriage night
to die and live by. But that is a small religion.
Full religion is the large poem in loving repetition;
like any poem, it must be inexhaustible and complete
with turns where we ask Now why did the poet do that?
You can't pray a lie, said Huckleberry Finn;
you can't poe one either. It is the same mirror:
mobile, glancing, we call it poetry,
fixed centrally, we call it a religion,
and God is the poetry caught in any religion,
caught, not imprisoned. Caught as in a mirror
that he attracted, being in the world as poetry
is in the poem, a law against its closure.
There'll always be religion around while there is poetry
or a lack of it. Both are given, and intermittent,
as the action of those birds - crested pigeon, rosella parrot -
who fly with wings shut, then beating, and again shut.
The Images Alone
Scarlet as the cloth draped over a sword,
white as steaming rice, blue as leschenaultia,
old curried towns, the frog in its green human skin;
a ploughman walking his furrow as if in irons, but
as at a whoop of young men running loose
in brick passages, there occurred the thought
like instant stitches all through crumpled silk:
as if he'd had to leap to catch the bullet.
A stench like hands out of the ground.
The willows had like beads in their hair, and
Peenemünde, grunted the dentist's drill, Peenemünde!
Fowls went on typing on every corn key, green
kept crowding the pinks of the peach trees into the sky
but used speech balloons were tacky in the river
and waterbirds had liftoff as at a repeal of gravity.
Us all on sore cement was we.
Not warmed then with glares. Not glutting mush
under that pole the lightning's tied to.
No farrow-shit in milk to make us randy.
Us back in cool god-shit. We ate crisp.
We nosed up good rank in the tunnelled bush.
Us all fuckers then. And Big, huh? Tusked
the balls-biting dog and gutsed him wet.
Us shoved down the soft cement of rivers.
Us snored the earth hollow, filled farrow, grunted.
Never stopped growing. We sloughed, we soughed
and balked no weird till the high ridgebacks was us
with weight-buried hooves. Or bristly, with milk.
Us never knowed like slitting nor hose-biff then.
Nor the terrible sheet-cutting screams up ahead.
The burnt water kicking. This gone-already feeling
here in no place with our heads on upside down.
Uphill in Melbourne on a beautiful day
a woman is walking ahead of her hair.
Like teak oiled soft to fracture and sway
it hung to her heels and seconded her
as a pencilled retinue, an unscrolling title
to ploughland, edged with ripe rows of dress,
a sheathed wing that couldn't fly her at all,
only itself, loosely, and her spirits.
of life and self, brushed all calm and out,
its abstracted attempts on her mouth weren't seen,
not its showering, its tenting. Just the detail
that swam in its flow-lines, glossing about--
as she paced on, comet-like, face to the sun.
Late Summer Fires
The paddocks shave black
with a foam of smoke that stays,
welling out of red-black wounds.
In the white of a drought
this happens. The hardcourt game.
Logs that fume are mostly cattle,
inverted, stubby. Tree stumps are kilns.
Walloped, wiped, hand-pumped,
even this day rolls over, slowly.
At dusk, a family drives sheep
out through the yellow
of the Aboriginal flag.
Towards The Imminent Days (Section 4)
In my aunt's house, the milk jug's beaded crochet cover
tickles the ear. We've eaten boiled things with butter.
Pie spiced like islands, dissolving in cream, is now
dissolving in us. We've reached the teapot of calm.
The table we sit at is fashioned of three immense
beech boards out of England. The minute widths of the year
have been refined in the wood by daughters' daughters.
In the year of Nelson, I notice, the winter was mild.
But our talk is cattle and cricket. My quiet uncle
has spent the whole forenoon sailing a stump-ridden field
of blady-grass and Pleistocene clay never ploughed
since the world's beginning. The Georgic furrow lengthens
in ever more intimate country. But we're talking bails,
stray cattle, brands. In the village of Merchandise Creek
there's a post in a ruined blacksmith shop that bears
a charred-in black-letter script of iron characters,
hooks, bars, conjoined letters, a weird bush syllabary.
It is the language of property seared into skin
but descends beyond speech into the muscles of cattle,
the world of feed as it shimmers in cattle minds.
My uncle, nodding, identifies the owners
(I gather M-bar was mourned by thousands of head).
It has its roots in meadows deeper than Gaelic,
my uncle's knowledge. Farmers longest in heaven
share slyly with him in my aunt's grave mischievous smile
that shines out of every object in my sight
in these loved timber rooms at the threshold of grass.
The depth in this marriage will heal the twentieth century.
The Dream Of Wearing Shorts Forever
To go home and wear shorts forever
in the enormous paddocks, in that warm climate,
adding a sweater when winter soaks the grass,
to camp out along the river bends
for good, wearing shorts, with a pocketknife,
a fishing line and matches,
or there where the hills are all down, below the plain,
to sit around in shorts at evening
on the plank verandah -
If the cardinal points of costume
are Robes, Tat, Rig and Scunge,
where are shorts in this compass?
They are never Robes
as other bareleg outfits have been:
the toga, the kilt, the lava-lava
the Mahatma's cotton dhoti;
archbishops and field marshals
at their ceremonies never wear shorts.
The very word
means underpants in North America.
Shorts can be Tat,
Land-Rovering bush-environmental tat,
socio-political ripped-and-metal-stapled tat,
solidarity-with-the-Third World tat tvam asi,
likewise track-and-field shorts worn to parties
and the further humid, modelling negligee
of the Kingdom of Flaunt,
that unchallenged aristocracy.
More plainly climatic, shorts
are farmers' rig, leathery with salt and bonemeal;
are sailors' and branch bankers' rig,
the crisp golfing style
of our youngest male National Costume.
Most loosely, they are Scunge,
ancient Bengal bloomers or moth-eaten hot pants
worn with a former shirt,
feet, beach sand, hair
and a paucity of signals.
Scunge, which is real negligee
housework in a swimsuit, pyjamas worn all day,
is holiday, is freedom from ambition.
Scunge makes you invisible
to the world and yourself.
The entropy of costume,
scunge can get you conquered by more vigorous cultures
and help you notice it less.
To be or to become
is a serious question posed by a work-shorts counter
with its pressed stack, bulk khaki and blue,
reading Yakka or King Gee, crisp with steely warehouse odour.
Satisfied ambition, defeat, true unconcern,
the wish and the knack of self-forgetfulness
all fall within the scunge ambit
wearing board shorts of similar;
it is a kind of weightlessness.
Unlike public nakedness, which in Westerners
is deeply circumstantial, relaxed as exam time,
artless and equal as the corsetry of a hussar regiment,
shorts and their plain like
are an angelic nudity,
spirituality with pockets!
A double updraft as you drop from branch to pool!
Ideal for getting served last
in shops of the temperate zone
they are also ideal for going home, into space,
into time, to farm the mind's Sabine acres
for product and subsistence.
Now that everyone who yearned to wear long pants
has essentially achieved them,
long pants, which have themselves been underwear
repeatedly, and underground more than once,
it is time perhaps to cherish the culture of shorts,
to moderate grim vigour
with the knobble of bare knees,
to cool bareknuckle feet in inland water,
slapping flies with a book on solar wind
or a patient bare hand, beneath the cadjiput trees,
to be walking meditatively
among green timber, through the grassy forest
towards a calm sea
and looking across to more of that great island
and the further tropics.
I starred that night, I shone:
I was footwork and firework in one,
a rocket that wriggled up and shot
darkness with a parasol of brilliants
and a peewee descant on a flung bit;
I was blusters of glitter-bombs expanding
to mantle and aurora from a crown,
I was fouéttes, falls of blazing paint,
para-flares spot-welding cloudy heaven,
loose gold off fierce toeholds of white,
a finale red-tongued as a haka leap:
that too was a butt of all right!
As usual after any triumph, I was
of course, inconsolable.
On The Borders
We're driving across tableland
somewhere in the world;
it is almost bare of trees.
Upland near void of features
always moves me, but not to thought;
it lets me rest from thinking.
I feel no need to interpret it
as if it were art. Too much
of poetry is criticism now.
That hawk, clinging to
the eaves of the wind, beating
its third wing, its tail
isn't mine to sell. And here is
more like the space that needs
to exist aound an image.
This cloud-roof country reminds me
of the character of people
who first encountered roses in soap.
In the painting, I'm seated in a shield,
coming home in it up a shadowy river.
It is a small metal boat lined in eggshell
and my hands grip the gunwale rims. I'm
a composite bow, tensioning the whole boat,
steering it with my gaze. No oars, no engine,
no sails. I'm propelling the little craft with speech.
The faded rings around the loose bulk shirt
are of five lines each, a musical lineation
and the shirt is apple-red, soaking in salt birth-sheen
more liquid than the river. My cap is a teal mask
pushed back so far that I can pretend it is headgear.
In the middle of the river are cobweb cassowary trees
of the South Pacific, and on the far shore rise
dark hills of the temperate zone. To these, at this
moment in the painting's growth, my course is slant
but my eye is on them. To relax, to speak European.
To Fly In Just Your Suit
Humans are flown, or fall;
humans can't fly.
We're down with the gravity-stemmers,
rare, thick-boned, often basso.
Most animals above the tides are airborne.
Typically tuned keen, they
throw the ground away with wire feet
and swoop rings round it.
Magpies, listening askance
for their food in and under lawn,
strut so hair-trigger they almost
dangle on earth, out of the air.
Nearly anything can make their
tailcoats break into wings.
The Quality Of Sprawl
Sprawl is the quality
of the man who cut down his Rolls-Royce
into a farm utility truck, and sprawl
is what the company lacked when it made repeated efforts
to buy the vehicle back and repair its image.
Sprawl is doing your farm work by aeroplane, roughly,
or driving a hitchhiker that extra hundred miles home.
It is the rococo of being your own still centre.
It is never lighting cigars with ten dollar notes:
that's idiot ostentation and murder of starving people.
Nor can it be bought with the ash of million dollar deeds.
Sprawl lengthens the legs; it trains greyhounds on liver and beer.
Sprawl almost never says, Why not?, with palms comically raised
nor can it be dressed for, not even in running shoes worn
with mink and a nose ring. That is Society. That's Style.
Sprawl is more like the thirteenth banana in a dozen
or anyway the fourteenth.
Sprawl is Hank Stamper in Never Give an Inch
bisecting an obstructive official's desk with a chain saw.
Not harming the official. Sprawl is never brutal,
though it's often intransigent. Sprawl is never Simon de Montfort
at a town-storming: Kill them all! God will know His own.
Knowing the man's name this was said to might be sprawl.
Sprawl occurs in art. The fifteenth to twenty-first
lines in a sonnet, for example. And in certain paintings.
I have sprawl enough to have forgotten which paintings.
Turner's glorious Burning of the Houses of Parliament
comes to mind, a doubling bannered triumph of sprawl -
except he didn't fire them.
Sprawl gets up the noses of many kinds of people
(every kind that comes in kinds) whose futures don't include it.
Some decry it as criminal presumption, silken-robed Pope Alexander
dividing the new world between Spain and Portugal.
If he smiled in petto afterwards, perhaps the thing did have sprawl.
Sprawl is really classless, though. It is John Christopher Frederick Murray
asleep in his neighbours' best bed in spurs and oilskins,
but not having thrown up:
sprawl is never Calum, who, in the loud hallway of our house
reinvented the Festoon. Rather
it's Beatrice Miles going twelve hundred ditto in a taxi,
No Lewd Advances, no Hitting Animals, no Speeding,
on the proceeds of her two-bob-a-sonnet Shakespeare readings.
An image of my country. And would thatit were more so.
No, sprawl is full gloss murals on a council-house wall.
Sprawl leans on things. It is loose-limbed in its mind.
Reprimanded and dismissed,
it listens with a grin and one boot up on the rail
of possibility. It may have to leave the Earth.
Being roughly Christian, it scratches the other cheek
And thinks it unlikely. Though people have been shot for sprawl.
A Retrospect Of Humidity
All the air conditioners now slacken
their hummed carrier wave. Once again
we've served our three months with remissions
in the steam and dry iron of this seaboard.
In jellied glare, through the nettle-rash season
we've watched the sky's fermenting laundry
portend downpours. Some came, and steamed away,
and we were clutched back into the rancid
saline midnights of orifice weather,
to damp grittiness and wiping off the air.
Metaphors slump irritably together in
the muggy weeks. Shark and jellyfish shallows
become suburbs where you breathe a fat towel;
babies burst like tomatoes with discomfort
in the cotton-wrapped pointing street markets;
the Lycra-bulging surf drips from non-swimmers
miles from shore, and somehow includes soil.
Skins, touching, soak each other. Skin touching
any surface wets that and itself
in a kind of mutual digestion.
Throbbing heads grow lianas of nonsense.
It's our annual visit to the latitudes
of rice, kerosene and resignation,
an averted, temporary visit
unrelated, for most, to the attitudes
of festive northbound jets gaining height -
closer, for some few, to the memory
of ulcers scraped with a tin spoon
or sweated faces bowing before dry
where the flesh is worn inside out,
all the hunger-organs clutched in rank nylon,
by those for whom exhaustion is spirit:
an intrusive, heart-narrowing season
at this far southern foot of the monsoon.
As the kleenex flower, the hibiscus
drops its browning wads, we forget
annually, as one forgets a sickness.
The stifling days will never come again,
not now that we've seen the first sweater
tugged down on the beauties of division
and inside the rain's millions, a risen
loaf of cat on a cool night verandah.
The Aboriginal Cricketer
Good-looking young man
in your Crimean shirt
with your willow shield
up, as if to face spears,
you're inside their men's Law,
one church they do obey;
they'll remember you were here.
Keep fending off their casts.
Don't come out of character.
Like you they suspect
idiosyncrasy of witchcraft.
Above all, don't get out
too easily, and have to leave here
where all missiles are just leather
and come from one direction.
Keep it noble. Keep it light.
The Mowed Hollow
When yellow leaves the sky
they pipe it to the houses
to go on making red
and warm and floral and brown
but gradually people tire of it,
return it inside metal, and go
to be dark and breathe water colours.
Some yellow hangs on outside
forlornly tethered to posts.
Cars chase their own supply.
When we went down the hollow
under the stormcloud nations
the light was generalised there
from vague glass places in the trees
and the colours were moist and zinc,
submerged and weathered and lichen
with black aisles and white poplar blues.
The only yellow at all
was tight curls of fresh butter
as served on stainless steel
in a postwar cafe: cassia flowers,
soft crystal with caraway-dipped tongues,
butter mountains of cassia flowers
on green, still dewed with water.
From the metal poppy
this good blast of trance
arriving as shock, private cloudburst blazing down,
worst in a boarding-house greased tub, or a barrack with competitions,
best in a stall, this enveloping passion of Australians:
tropics that sweat for you, torrent that braces with its heat,
inflames you with its chill, action sauna, inverse bidet,
sleek vertical coruscating ghost of your inner river,
reminding all your fluids, streaming off your points, awakening
the tacky soap to blossom and ripe autumn, releasing the squeezed gardens,
smoky valet smoothing your impalpable overnight pyjamas off,
pillar you can step through, force-field absolving love's efforts,
nicest yard of the jogging track, speeding aeroplane minutely
steered with two controls, or trimmed with a knurled wheel.
Some people like to still this energy and lie in it,
stirring circles with their pleasure in it, but my delight's that toga
worn on either or both shoulders, fluted drapery, silk whispering to the tiles,
with its spiralling, frothy hem continuous round the gurgle-hole'
this ecstatic partner, dreamy to dance in slow embrace with
after factory-floor rock, or even to meet as Lot's abstracted
merciful wife on a rusty ship in dog latitudes,
sweetest dressing of the day in the dusty bush, this persistent,
time-capsule of unwinding, this nimble straight well-wisher.
Only in England is its name an unkind word;
only in Europe is it enjoyed by telephone.
Childhood sleeps in a verandah room
in an iron bed close to the wall
where the winter over the railing
swelled the blind on its timber boom
and splinters picked lint off warm linen
and the stars were out over the hill;
then one wall of the room was forest
and all things in there were to come.
Breathings climbed up on the verandah
when dark cattle rubbed at the corner
and sometimes dim towering rain stood
for forest, and the dry cave hunched woollen.
Inside the forest was lamplit
along tracks to a starry creek bed
and beyond lay the never-fenced country,
its full billabongs all surrounded
by animals and birds, in loud crustings,
and sometimes kept leaping up amongst them.
And out there, to kindle whenever
dark found it, hung the daylight moon.