for Stuart Cooke


The palm tree frond
a flag-like wave
across the dampness – 

across the sky –
twice my height,
high above,
a deep green frond
paddling grey air. – 

In the marina
a thousand wires
clink and jostle – rattled, jingling – 
playing their forest of pullies
as old-style radio masts
and angular semaphores: 

I could live here
between the moisture and
that sound – 

or in the moment
recalled just now
when I’d left the plane 

and was walking
across shallow dusk-lit puddles 

arriving at Nadi after
the afternoon downpour 


The palm tree frond
swirls its loose curlicue
across the sky – 

its many fingers
stop the wind tearing it:
a lattice-work, an ocean,
a furtherance
all seep through. 

A scent of diesel lifts
from glistening concrete. 


Don’t forget to hang on
to the arching green spire
of that wind-tossed stalk 

in the forgotten verge, unmown,
next to pungent tarmac laid
on the approach road: 

the grasses have shot up
in a couple of drizzly weeks,
spear grass, wallaby grass, 

many too hard to identify –
perhaps that’s red grass –
and the tangle, what is it? 

The bending seed-head,
its shepherd’s crook,
is about to ripen 

and scatter invisible
golden particles into
undergrowth’s rubbish 


Follow along the inside
of the curve: there are tiny seeds
still about to ripen 

on a trajectory more
certain than persistent weather
from the west over there 

despite all its storms, rain-fronts,
even its monsoons pushed down
lower through the arid zone. 

Mostly, the sheep ran off,
thousands of them,
long ago in childhood – 

into sleep, through fences,
through wooden gates,
slats, stiles. Yet the fragrance’s 

not sheep. Have you ever
stopped in the desert mountains
of Southern California? 

and, after rain, have you smelt,
when walking off the road,
those sweet gardens of creosote? 


Don’t forget, too, Australia’s native rose
there on its Dutch paper.....
Delicate, not rose-like at all. 

It has lasted a while,
Boronia serrulata,
watercolour by Raper, 

flowering on a two-pronged
spray, picked somewhere
from sandstone rocks 

circa 1790....Inked in its frame,
a long-dead instance trapped
in the particulars of blossom. 

In the taxonomy of things,
a thing – but also no more
than a trace or capturing: 

drawn from this order
to another one, observed
but thereby made border- 

line, special for some people:
a diligent amateur’s work
that’s cute and imperial. 

A colonial picture, it snaps up
the land, the names, the space –
it plays its part in the game. 

You look across the amber air
which is what is left
glowing around the flower, 

immersed in its silence,
its wordlessness, its muteness,
its precision in the dance. 


Wake up, wake up! Daybreak
down the beach,
past those sentinel outward-leaning coco-palms, 

opens its white singular eye
over the grey waters
between clouds dark as berries 

water-laden to the point of burst
but which will drift away
like a line of dolphins 

now the warm atmosphere’s
building to its later shine
of eye-strain white on dark. 

So, wake up, let’s go walking
through the water sluiced on sand,
tossing it from our feet like feathers: 

watch out for things that sting.
The orange and lemon streaks
are in our blood. The moisture’s 

what that blood must carry.
(The rose’s pink and dark pink blushes)
The skin’s permeable as the sand. 

We’re in the world, we have no choice
in how its transience is mine and yours.
Our shadowed gait’s top-heavy as the palm. 

Let’s get there before the sun does.
We are in the world, we give it everything.
It hides itself, will soon be far too much.

Two Part Variations