Waking up to still the wind was basic
narcissism and yet the same might be said
of the mosquito seeing the balcony door
as the gateway to her kingdom of blood
though in animal kingdoms that’s known as
presumption more than “self”.
                                                  These were not
the beautiful things though it was time
to practise stopping hoarding, as principle.
(This was not yet dawn.) The windows glistened
in salt tincture it was like the time I first
understood I needed glasses, the before
and after of the world smiling.
So what fool volunteered to translate poetry?
I walked the cliff path to Bronte and back &
by then the wind was westerly, peeling off
lines of spray as the waves bellied forward
just the right size. So I caught my first two
of the year. (This was not yet midday.)
The guy made the perfect coffee he was French
or Brazilian and I bought my first lilies of the year.
Property of the vase was to magnify the air
bubbles clinging to stems and while I was no
scientist I could call the phenomenon improbable
(this was not yet refraction) and someone
remarked that the beautiful things were indeed on
the rise. “Her” kingdom of blood? Good
god it was time to start sharing. Pretty much
everything. So why did I not listen to the voice
of God whipping that elephant through the salt spray,
yelling Get out, get out of the way?
Bonfire as initiation. Nothing, not even
meaning, was ever not metaphor. Try
as I might I could not experience the slow
degranulation of sandstone into sand
and yet here the four of us went walking
at Bondi by the water (this was not
yet dusk) which seemed, this walk, “immediate”;
in the middle of the moment one tends never
to allow for the millennia preceding the cool
easy dip. Though I could have sworn I
remembered from long ago these riots of waves
booming on the tympanic membrane like atoms
scattered by particle reactors preceding
the birth of the Sydney Basin. I could have
sworn to that, at least. Mirrah found
a starfish. I remembered the yellow-bellied
sea snake, two thousand miles off course, writhing
its last on the sand in 1993. Or the exhausted
albatross just trying to stand, just give me a moment,
wings spread wide as the seagulls went batshit
with rage, not our beach, nuh-uh, a mob
descending, though in animal kingdoms, of which
I count myself acolyte, that’s known as
presumption more than “gulls as selves”.
Everyone battling their own agency. None
of this was relevant in Minamurra Avenue
in 1973 when I stepped into the creek: eel!
That shudder echoing still. And the bull-ants’
nest and those fractals of pain. And the magpie’s
relentless swoop. And so I had to work out
the vehicle of de-atrophying just as “sandstone”
works out the beach toward which it will
ideate in nine hundred thousand years.
Same goes for those smooth rocks, clacking in the creek.
When deep in there I find I have become
the turtle who transcended I rejoice
if quietly, inside my thoughts
floating like a compass needle in amber
lifting out of my life by being in it
getting to know the presence part
of presence of mind more than the mind part
a voice whereof nonetheless says the moment
to upgrade from idiot to initiate
has come. All of which another way of asking
What is the simplest question every time?
In the time it took to hang two towels
in the laundry room the southerly hit hard
washing machines in blank repose down there
dark still world of salt-crumbled brick as the waves
howled and boomed on the boat ramp rocks below
Back upstairs when I shouldered the door
a shrieking now invaded the flat &
my notebook had self-abandoned to whirlwind
scraps of verse in flight, also I scrambled after
lens cleaners, pens, a baseball cap so the simplest
question was now had any poems
been sucked out the vortex of window?
As limestone knows that endless drip, drip, drip
we know you can’t enter the same poem twice
so if they were gone they were gone forever
so the question was barely a question &
the building shook and hammered all night &
the fishermen shouted below in foreign tongues &
for the additional universal theatre of it all
I wedged wide open the bucking balcony door
though the sheets themselves might have flown away
obvious point being when the wind so gleefully
batters and percusses indoors one sits up deadly
serious and pays attention one weighs the thrills;
this was the Night the Country Burned &
the same night you said Harder