Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Part 1 of 2
Gold Coast 2009 April
Monday, February 15, 2010
Monday, December 21, 2009
How big the
The city mind is told in numbers and forgets.
Its breath and heart cannot imagine or measure them
written as they are into the smell of cattle and earth,
the taste of dust.
From my office I would see cattle stretched
in numbers over plains, under gum trees.
I would be there to disturb their solitude,
and with voice or stick, walk and hurry them over numbers
and count them at the baked wooden yards at end of day.
I would catch the train out, past the city’s last idling houses
through hours of trees to a tiny town,
to the pick-up ute and leaning stockman who drove
down dirt roads to the homestead, its eiderdown
of stars, the cup of tea, the rough mattress, then oblivion.
I would wake newborn to the smell of dirt rolled out
by the sun, catch my horse and with the smell of horse,
leather and dirt, ride to the cattle.
How many numbers the homestead paddock?
Plenty, and easy to be lost……
Once young musterers left me
for the thrill to chase some native animal. I shouted.
I rode in circles.
I waited, listened, but only heard the wind gentle
in the trees.
I had lost the numbers of time and cattle,
and rode my horse until my bottom ached,
led him until my feet ached, rode him, led him.
I hoped he would take me home, as horses do,
or to water, as horses can,
but he seemed not to know.
The three dogs stayed. They played.
They sniffed amongst gum-flavoured leaves
and clutches of grass at the base of trees,
jumped scrub to chase hares and wallabies.
The sun wouldn’t stop shining.
The numbers of trees kept advancing.
None would cramp to feed on the flesh of a creek.
My mind slipped amongst them.
My canvas waterbag swung empty from my saddle.
We all bled salt.
At dusk we found a shallow creek.
We lined up and drank the brown water,
heaved our lungs, blew out our bellies,
then, heads low, followed.
The wind smoothed the heat on our bodies,
but not my anxieties.
I expected a night curled between saddle flaps;
but then the gate, the hoof-marked, tyre-marked track
to the homestead,
for me, brown, bland and beautiful,
a statement over undisciplined country,
a statement of people who must work with the outdoors,
who take risks.
I wanted to belong, to chase the numbers.
Caroline Glen © October 09
Monday, December 14, 2009
I have found you again,
on the hem of town, breathing your own
piece of air and sky, licking the sun, singing with the wind.
You stand ankle-high, each blade hard-pressed
into the sum of you,
still living your freedom.
You still spread from road to horizon,
a large green garment,
a little worn near the sleeves,
where new threads, alone or in clusters,
patch the best they can.
Earth has provided the cutting-floor for design,
the workplace for patterning,
the malleability for needling,
the timeplace for admiration.
You are seeded to earth-dependency, like us,
where the seeds of man ripen,
where his body heats into shape,
his bones harden for action,
his soul reaches for sky.
Your two seams run straight at your sides,
by taffeta-stiff houses,
their manicured lawns, manicured flowers,
all yawning with boredom.
The winds pleat and crease,
ruffle you into ecstasy, smooth you into quietude.
I came again to see the embroidery of your small flowers,
white for the moon, gold for the sun,
swaying their fragility amongst the dark-green confidence
of weeds, and to watch the small brown creatures
journeying your roots, all they know of home,
and to look up for butterflies, moths and birds,
seesawing their joy about and above you;
and to honour the birdsnests inside your pockets
woven from your cloth,
and safe from hooves of horses and cattle.
I have come for you to renourish me,
to slice open the fruit of my imaginings,
dulled and pitted by city living.
The branches of your old trees ride the winds
Ungroomed, unshaven, left to their own fancy,
they drift their pose in lazy height,
and droop in prayer, in praise of you,
spilling their buds and leaves in random thanks at your feet.
Your shrubs still crouch low, their brown fingers
stiff and knuckled.
Fistfuls of tussock still cling to your fabric.
I have come to lie on you,
to listen to your stories, hear the hustle of insects,
the rustle of birds, the whistle and chuckle of wind,
the rise and fall of their tunes,
to hear you growing, slowly, slowly.
And to smell your green flesh, its salty-sweetness,
like the salty-sweetness of our blood,
and smell the bitter friendliness from your ferns,
like old coal, resting in a shed of forgetfulness;
and smell ash and sweat from your native shrubs,
and stroke a rogue thread bending above,
arguing for more sun.
And to smell the Australian earth, its minerals and clay,
once water and fire that long ago haemorrhaged
in fierce unison to mould you.
And to reflect one day spadefuls may be mounded
above me, ironing me to anonymity,
my last covering blanket.
In vain we wish to keep you, your gown
wide and generous, swinging, beckoning us without guile
or anger, to love you, to heal with you.
Buildings, factories, creep closer. I cannot stop them.
We cannot stop them. You cannot withstand
man’s machines, his madness for money.
No-one can help. Not me, nor the people,
the insects, the birds, the flowers.
You are destined to die for the world, spooned up
and overwritten by concrete,
despaired for a while, then soon forgotten.
Eucalypt, fir and pine hem the giddy climb to heaven.
Old servants, arm in arm, in rhyme of song,
they twist and bow to wind and storm.
Warm-clothed they liaise with sun and rain
in loyal high-country tradition.
Their ranks stay closed on by-roads and paths
to convex lookouts
where relatives in unending sweep below
swing their limbs with the joy of freedom.
Water rushes from rock eyes.
It falls furious-fast past wind-sharp cliffs,
past trees that swing suicidal from tight lips.
It collapses to fill pools eyelashed with shadow,
or renew the flesh of creeks that creep beside the feet
of the tree kingdom.
Amongst them, brown rockcakes sit on tables and wait,
never to be eaten.
Ancient-baked below earth, in a fire-driven oven
they exploded into unyielding shape.
Flat bush, like icing, spreads from their heads
and drips haphazard down their brows.
The wind whips and licks the spongy tip-topped heads
that arc from single threads of long-necked trees.
Nearest to sun and moon they flaunt a superiority.
Rivers, unpraised, untampered by man, carry the secrets
of the forest in her pockets. They think only of
joining the sea. They smell her, hear her calling.
A blue shawl throws its mohair warmth over the dips
and ridges of the northern valley.
It steals the horizon sky, blurs the scars of a witch-black
escarpment. The giant girths of the forest lords -
the Antarctic beeches, bear the weight
of the brawny branches,
and the caterpillar leaves
that release with calm, their ancient breath.
In this hideaway country grows the greenest grass
and people slip like coloured angles of wind
from wildflower homes to greet you. Their voices,
foliage-soft, speak the songs of the forest.
The wayfarer wanders the silence with renewed
woodland and wildlife empathy.
He listens for the whip and lyrebird, but seldom sees them.
The damp after rain swells his mind into half-remembered
landscapes of childhood; that place of innocence
where the child’s dreams flew hawk-eyed to the unknown,
like the horizons of the Springbrook mountains.
Caroline Glen ©
You saunter over sand on seagull legs;
stand a moment in waist-high water,
and like the seagulls, appraise the seascape.
You slide your inherited strong arms
into the sea’s soft folds,
and swim easily out into the blue of Byron Bay;
you, alone out there on a Spring morning,
the wings of the sun lighting your body.
My arms remember they held you,
the chubby nine-month-old,
in the Canberra swimming pool.
You kicked and clawed
into a love for water,
the beginning of swimming competence.
Later the schoolboy race.
The family bent over the pool ledge and shouted
you on. You nearly won;
then we lost you for years to unknown waters,
in unknown places.
New from your stay at Recovery
you swim into the increasing deep,
above the marine graveyard of skulls and spines
where sharks might wish and weave.
I relax when you curve back to us,
people of the land,
where we can hold each other in body stillness,
and where you can replant,
all of you to regrow
in earth’s forgiving, resilient soil.
(prizewinner) Caroline Glen © September 09