Winter 2005 vol 4.2
Selected Poems
John Kinsella
Exhuming Autobiography

The basis of my work is the pastoral—or counter-pastoral—and so it’s to the country I look when exhuming autobiography. I should say, before going further, that I wrote a “deconstructive” autobiography of my years to about thirty-three. Recently, at the request of an antipodean journal, I wrote a timeline for 1984. This morning I read an article written by a friend on one of my books—The Silo: A Pastoral Symphony (1995). In this piece he drew a link between his own childhood visits to his grandfather’s farm, and my holidays on my Uncle’s farm—Wheatlands—outside of York, Western Australia. I found myself wondering about my relationship to the country and dropped an email to my friend saying that apart from those many holidays, we spent almost every third weekend on the farm, that I looked after it (and ran it) for long months at a time in my late teens and early twenties, that I earnt money for travel from ploughing its fields. I might have added that I helped plant many trees in efforts to reclaim saline land, co-invented the irrigation system that watered the large stand of avocadoes (an alternative to the wheat and sheep that dominated the farming practice of the farm and district as a whole), that my brother has been a shearer for twenty years and that the entrée he offers into the secret and disturbing world of the subliminal rural Australia is more relevant than any farmer could offer, and that it steps outside the class aspirations and European cultural monopoly of the farm, that my father was a manager on a 30,000-acre farm up near Mullewa, north of Geraldton, that I spent many years living half the week with my brother, keeping house (and drinking) while he was shearing, on the massive sheep farm known as Happy Valley near Williams on the edge of the great and sacred dryandra forest, that my mother lives just outside York at the base of Walwalinj, where I live with my family when in Australia. Connection is so much childhood, and memory and the flaws of memory so much at the basis of my work—mimetic, mimesis, refrain—but it’s also been a process of having no choice but to be there, working there (including on wheat bins in my early twenties) to make some kind of living. Whether it was hay carting or carrot picking, or even working in the dreaded polluting land-destroying fertiliser factory on Cockburn Sound on the industrial strip just south of Fremantle, it was connected to the rural. A vegan, I have spent over 20 years atoning for the many animals I shot—especially the parrots that I feel so inextricably linked to. I could add too that my mother was posted on country duty as a teacher and I did most of my high-schooling in the coastal country town of Geraldton, caught between the ever-rolling sea and the rolling paddocks of sandplain country, in a town of deep racism and violence. That I lived later in a shack near Bridgetown growing dreadlocks and organic vegetables, that in even later sober life I taught in institutions semi-rural or just plain country. And yes, I did travel out of the suburbs to the country, and those journeys of contrast were the journeys of pastoral—shifts that make observations of the ironies and wrongs across both urban and rural worlds focus all the more through the individual—like carrying fruit fly or a crop-destroying fungus across the line in the sand. You don’t fit anywhere. On the edge of the ocean, you lived in a cave. Fighting dependency, you slept in parks. You travelled and left the backpack a long way back. You got straight. Married. Children. Cambridge, England. USA—you weren’t allowed in for years. Protest activities either side of any application. Vegan, Anarchist, Pacifist. You have seen the State kill indigenous people—literally. You have been beaten by the constabulary. The more power is centralised, the more the poem claims authority, the less it can give—it can only take. Seeing a lot of violence pushes you one way or the other. Poems written at seven become relevant at forty-two. Wherever, the issue of faith has loomed. Clinically dead three times, you have to have a bit of it. But you left religion when you were fifteen and looked sideways—look sideways. The word? The land? You spend time trying to convince your partner—a lapsed Catholic—that there’s purpose, reason for faith. You’re convincing yourself. Mostly, it’s language. Mostly, words generate and ideas hold it all together. In the laboratory at Ningaloo—you are fifteen or sixteen—you work on analysing mineral sands alone, between massive factories and flat open growing space. The fallout coating the crops, livestock. You are dealing with some of the most toxic substances in existence. The irony is unshakeable. You think of the farm at York, the remnant scrub, even the vestiges are enough. There since you were born — there’s a photo of you a few months old with the stark cleared paddocks and the family, great-grandmother included. You are that, from the beginning. You live in three countries now. You watch the press you founded by the Indian Ocean grow. Chris is seeing forty books through that press a year. It is... internationalist. You come and go from your home place. You are internationalist, and yet your thinking so regional, so local, so specific. You enjoy the names given to things—whatever the names, whoever gives them. There is no New Arcadia—the spray planes, GM crops, factory farms—but there never was. It’s always been a counter-pastoral, that’s the thing. The more one strains for the bucolic, the more distant it becomes. Even a polluted ocean can renew—it’s the movement of water, the tides, the shifts in current. Magma flooding out of a volcano does the same—it also is poisonous to touch, like the seas of wheat so heady and exquisite in harvest evening-light. And now, you recognise what you thought was there but lacked the names to describe it: the Wagyl, the water serpent, pressed out of the land it carved by salt and poison—the custodians of the place, the Nyungar people, have long known what you—w—can only begin to guess at. To them total respect. To them, the land back. It was stolen. It was cleared. It was and continues to be “worked”. It is not overlaid: all the markings are there to be seen if you read closely, as you’ve been told. You just need to know—or attempt to know, at least—how to look, how to read. That is faith. My poetry is an orthography. Each letter is reinserted into the land when it is sounded out. All the markings matter—it’s not a matter of good or bad, but intention. And birds are prophets.

Inheritance: Fetish Sestina

from A Garland of Perversities

I couldn’t but notice, driving the tractor in summer, that my wife’s nightie — soft cloth
folded over — is much more interesting than oily hessian on the pneumatic seat —
no more cushioning but pleasanter on the skin wearing shorts, like ball- bearings
so glossy to touch, so cool in hot weather, rolling out the wrinkles of travel, smooth
on the cheek, the lips; it being rickety in here and the dust rough
in the throat, it distracts from the harshest work, plush as eyes

looking up at my sensitive bits, chewing the crop, eyes
kept sharp for errant rock or nest of quail, the odd locust fluttering up, the cloth
warding off plagues; I stop for smoko, but instead of jumping down onto rough
earth, stay seated in my cab-over, rolling my hips and soothing from the seat
up, a blood-red sunset saying enough is enough, and calling it quits I smooth
out my line of cut, rest up with evening cool, soft-harsh bite of fabric, getting my bearings

from home-thoughts and satisfaction of work well-done; it’s time I changed the bearings
in this old but reliable work-horse, time I stopped my thoughts wandering, kept my eyes
on the goals ahead — taking the place back to profit, serving the church, looking to smooth
out the bumps in this ride, the vibrations that are the devil’s work, the cloth
that turns me from my wife, turns me into myself; time I renounced and took my seat
in a town desperate for remedies and confidence, ironed my own laundry with rough

hands, hands whose lines can’t be read by the fortune tellers I dream of, hands rough
on my wife’s skin kept out of the sun — blemishes as frightening as sin — her bearings
lost to me in years of you do your thing and I’ll do mine, no children to take the seat
of power we both believe we’ve a right to — the farm come down from her father, his eyes
on every change I make, every repair I carry out, hero of the Church, crisp white cloth
still covering possessions left in his room exactly as it was when death came smooth

and merciless out of the full moon, swallowed him whole through the window, the smooth
glass reflecting only an image death wears on lonely outings, its essence rough
and ready and deadly behind mirrors, the moon on your face I’d warned, no cloth
of curtains to protect him from the madness that’s ruled this house since marriage, death’s bearings
set before the vows were even made; let go of him, I say, let go of him who only had eyes
for you, stroked the satin of your garments by the Metters Stove, fixed to his seat

in grim determination against me, a scowl as he spoke of its softness, screwing the seat
to the floor with his belligerence: like duck down or the upside of a red gum leaf, so smooth
to touch, like your mother — he said it to get at me, my wife kept busy; my wife’s eyes
are his eyes and they are tired with pretending not to see... for all her genteel ways, she’s rough
around the edges — some days she wears nothing underneath... tomorrow, I’ll take my bearings
from the house antennae, from the stand of wandoos, the dam... focus... the cloth...

cloth so smooth
seat so rough
bearings for eyes.

Tastes of the Wheatbelt

Of the tongue things eaten make more words
than words make food, but that’s no reason
we should succumb... asked at the cut-out piss-up
the shearer says taste... here is beer and lanolin,
blood of the sheep I shear... the brief
action of fire on the flensed beast... By slow burning
wood stoves, quick electric elements and blue gas jets,
the verdict is gravy and custard, salt and sugar,
and the ease with which a fork does or doesn’t
prod the paddocks; taste is the most delusional
of senses, so many poisons sweet or inoffensive
to these multitudinous guardians of the temple
pass through undetected, so many sour tastes
prevent the absorption of essential nutrients;
dirt in mouth, toothpaste, tobacco... and kerosene
from the back of the hand wiped across the lips
without thinking... sampled “new foods”
ancient as bland tofu enlivened by soy sauce,
“old foods” as vibrant as wild jams and seed flours,
entrepreneurial cross-pollination
of the palate and erogenous zones,
the essence of home-baked bread —
wishful thinking against bad seasons,
rainwater stored in corrugated tanks
sweetly bitter with its taint of the metallic,
paradoxes of foods stained by woodsmoke,
taste of our own sweat, cauterised longing
brought by thirst, a blank zone induced
by scalding coffee, clove oil for the toothache
too far to drive to get it seen to, parrot-torn
stone-fruit a display of prepositions as the cyanide
of the bite-down releases stickiness
and a freshness beyond the mint
held in the cheek, tractor winging it
as the wheel spins below the ball
of the hand, dust become grit
and the concreting over of buds,
a dull bridging of the salacious creeks,
salt hardening the arteries, tasting
from this far apart: bitter almonds
breathed in through the mouth.

Textures of the Wheatbelt

Hessian waterbag cool in shade-house
swings with resistance, a cooling action
of flow that would slow flight down,
interfere with logic, a textural
draught, a rough divvying up of cloth
and air and water tilted against a burnished horizon,
stems of Paterson’s Curse inflicting glass needles
like beacons, to rub against the angle of entry
like cropping out of season, or setting
a rabbit-trap off with a bare foot or sandal;
the shed strips of rough grey outer bark
of the York gum tune the green-grey
glide of undercurrents, the underneaths
out of sun and weathering winds,
gripping barbed wire to pin it down
and climb over to catch the flickback and skin-jag
and to wonder why you deserve such ill luck:
it’s a matter of physics; an exfoliation of rust
is sharp and withering, crumbling cut,
all damage in bind-a-twine ripping over skin,
through clenched hands as bale slips sideways
and spills in segments, a burning as fire
and satin and density of colour,
red welts rising against the pliers’ cut,
so much plant fibre and wire, blood slicks
like oil and water mixed against chemistry,
a science of bone finery and sharpness,
sinew and sever, a feathery drift of ash
made ash again where fires are burnt often,
where steel is extreme even through gloves,
and a clod of loamy earth sticks just right,
too much in heavy clay, too little in sand
welling out vast planes, low scrub gone,
a white scrunch echoing rims of brackish water,
wings and carapaces irritant and emollient
on harvest windscreens, grain-dust working
pores best described as agnostic
in their receipt of itch.

Smells of the Wheatbelt

Yes, the smell of hay being cut when slightly damp,
that heady, intoxicating lushness, a poison
sustaining allergies and full heads; yes, the wheat
harvest, the dry stalks cut and eaten by the header,
spilled like alcohol into the field bins, trucks
overloaded for the silos — both sides of a simile;
yes, the smell of wet sheep on a frosty morning
warming rapidly, the sun blazing though far
enough away to keep the temperatures down,
the olfactories unsure as stung and bitten; the sweet
putrefaction of a field of flowering canola, the weird
anomaly of wattle bloom, the layering of dust occluding
its own mineral and cellular odour; the perfumed
corrosion of herbicides killing from the roots up,
leaf down, inside out; sting of pesticides washed
from crop to river, the chromatic gleam
filming the surface a collusion of smell and taste,
a trauma of the eye the balancing liquid
plethoric, yellow patches of cells so close to seeing
the plumes and clouds of fumes, the effusors asnomiac;
the dog having rolled in the realm of the dead,
a secret place of dumped animals, ribs
splayed and skin hanging in coagulate “high heaven”
misrepresentation; in from labouring
over fencing, the underarm scouring
of shower and clean clothes: hedonic,
fugitive, diffuse, abated.

Wave Motion Light Fixed and Finished

Light carves a surface;
Light anneals fibres;
Light reflects and polishes;
Light collects in red gums;
Light infuses the river-mouth;
Light surfs rock and sand;
Light caught outside focuses in the studio;
Light’s harmonics; Light’s deletions;
Light’s semi-tones of shadow;
silver parcels of sky-light; panels like prayer mats;
silver-leaf leaves flattened rolled out luminous ignition of solar
panels cloud formational reprise and a top-dressing finished glance;
ergo sum, ergo sunt, ergonomics of steel-pinned beauty,
Freida Kahlo strength, the saw bench, saw-light, wound
healing as wood planed to river loop and stretch, upwind downstream
filaments of trees reaching into salt-freshwater rendition, to walk
on black foil lift-off surface tension skip a beat
fish jump in largesse of cloud, tonnage of water vapour
as carved out old laws and coastal raiders
as fourteenths of a whole, holistically challenging to float above
a bed of wood, a bed of air, a bed of light, as solid as erosion from
southerlies cutting into hamlets and guilds,
a code, a tapping of branch on branch we might think
vaguely light Morse code this small part we can see at once
of any vision, any transmutation of heightened emotion, the variable
light of idea, sketch, rough, and finished product, artefact, item, example,
distillation… an economy of presence, an evidence of passing through the waves
of horizon, the highs and lows of occupation… silver nitrate tint, Polaroid
caught out before exposure, lightning-driven trees lit up like superstition, anatomy
interface grain reaching across planar quelling of spilt tea, spilt coffee,
blackbutt counteraction, storm-fallen revivification, as if each cell in its harmonic
is charging for renewal, the divan the ocean we slide into, nesting
chairs called back to the same spot to amplitude, sine wave
that lopes scansion bevelled edges tanged to ferrel and groove,
to sit and look out at imprints of rapture or haunting, luminous fire-wrought
hardened stock and buffer zone, delay contact consumed and melded
to carry out day-to-day activities, concentrate on one aspect of revelation,
a music emanates as light over ripples and echo-soundings
of wood density and rock density and water density and the sunset off-cuts
of light dampened, the temple stretched, this slow-time analysis of decompression,
emerging from within the element, the bends bring contract
and oxygen does something else, here the bends are absorbed, you flow
with them emergence, the night-eyes not seen as steel glints
a fine line, spirits of night falter on light borders withdrawing or creeping
into the vista, a front blown out, sleep bandwidth in the silent sound system,
the pin dropping so loud in distillation; pragmatically, light moves across the table,
pragmatically, light fills the wall behind the canvas, the floor and walls
light-heavy, light-drenched; changeable, flighty, instant, light thrills
the horizon, thrills the sharp lines
outside the halo, runs riot, and river flows on
and the furniture in the bedroom, living room, lounge room, dining room..
settles; going out… work, a show, a walk… a sense of where things sit
stays with you, side-step, accommodate, meld… as seagull, osprey, sooty
oyster-catchers, criss-cross and throw up solar panels, throw up diffuse
maps of absolute light; in the land’s curvature, the shark swims through
the territory of roo and wallaby, heavy-bodied cows light on their feet,
up to the river’s edge, forests breathing moistly; the lamps shifts and haunted
trees emerge, or figures of the dispossessed — they can’t be built out,
textured into the immensity of ocean and sky and headland,
low wattage of sunset driven up over rise, silhouette intensifying
where we walked, where all have walked out of memory,
taking sustenance out of the reconfigured picture,
having been there before and before; a line of herring
race the coastline, heavier fish sit close to the bottom, poised
on the edge of our seats, the table floats on silver air, the sky
made horizontal, the horizon a vertical line attaching
ceiling and floor — no vertigo comes with this, or searching out vertigo
it is a sonorous warmth of blended specificity: light peaking and dropping,
crests and troughs, concurrent and ecliptic,
the certainty of form when solar activity upsets the animals, confuses
bio-rhythms, the certainty of the shape waking to look out over the same
sunspots ripping through heath and forest, sizing canvas and coating
the hard dead growth, a form of rekindling
the ups and downs of days alone, days full of shadow, days burning with glare
and a brooding atmosphere, days becalmed, days where a memory
forced down below the surface, planes of light, bursts out
like caught sun, and then settles back into the dimensions
of the domestic, the pastoral: light transfigures, regenerates, blinds;
light is not to be taken for granted; light’s properties grow
in the limestone caverns where we haven’t seen, the sea connected
with where we stand, or sit, or spread ourselves out to float or hover
or petrify or sink down into surfaces below surfaces
and perspectives of light, thin membrane of land carved by seven waves
then seven waves and so on, on one side and lightly so on, on the other
more circumstantial though never casual the repetitions of wave motion,
river lappings carried against the banks against the skin-drum, against
Light’s semi-tones of shadow;
Light’s harmonics; Light’s deletions;
Light caught outside focuses in the studio;
Light surfs rock and sand;
Light infuses the river-mouth;
Light collects in red gums;
Light reflects and polishes;
Light anneals fibres;
Light carves a surface…

Graphology 251-257: Faith


Exquisite corpse abuzz
with temporal rifts, harbour platelets
sifting lime-lit lanes as hypnagogic images here before
the graveyard of new criticism: don’t
get me wrong, I respect and praise the dead,
shift gently among them; remember
where I come from; dolphins
up-the-river, flathead
convulsing in the plastic bucket, and further in, the wheatlands.

This robotic effort, chemical reaction as random or custom-made
as slightly different wiring
we can’t really see; circumstances
and environment, genetic opportunism
a diving magpie hitting home: an eye,
tuft of hair; out-surviving
megafauna within a city’s florescence.
My shepherd prospect is prospect of plain or ocean,
Flying Dutchman half-encountered, Corbière setting out when the storm gets started.


None do-gooding or do-gooding
for neural satisfaction, sans culture
and we’re highlighting causality
in Africa; make it fit your argument,
make it this Easter Sunday evening,
make it risible in boneplate and terror,
aestivate and xeroxed; sample moody communes;
claim participation, exploration and fiducia,
claim belief slain in spirit incubation everlasting
reward; would they care for their children
if they weren’t imprinted: a planet
of fostering, a stringless dedication?
Loved for ignoring the personality
every rule of every household implants?
Or loving no God, would they love
the children of the orphanages?
Or loving no State? Or loving
not their benevolence,
or balancing of an equation?
This prayer lifting off the roof, hymns and invocations
locked-up in the louvres, transoms, domes and towers.
A door bangs and you barely start.
Confession is a lounge room, a slightly wetted road
denying traction, anxiety of being rocked
at high altitude. We grow nervous
waiting for each other to make it home.


Planning a journey to the north-eastern-most point
of the Western Australian wheatbelt — a town named Beacon —
you think of Peter Gizzi’s “beacon” poem you heard read recently
and say: at that place where Major Mitchells flock in from the desert
and grey honeyeaters nest, you too might exercise faith
as Peter does, in an exquisitely excoriated celebratory way:
this is the lyrical interlude or revival
before Apocalypse; and marginal growing areas
that give way to deeply driven dryness
will frisk any love song
out of its wrapper.


Searching the district for signifier
so hung-up on, trammelling breeze
coming in over scree and tongue-swallowing,
he skived and double-jointed a spring
up from bent, chivvied light rays
and chucked limestone
down absorbingly,
and I agree, soaking chalk in blue ink
and snapping is not like snapping a tooth
a long way from dentistry.


Dürer’s The Hare is automatic in cleft and clavicle clarity enters
Hesphaetus disrobes borides to go where grandmother was born Kookynie
where gold was drawn and boomed dust bust of mine deaths
stay overnight just non-stop recording martyr and grief and multiplications
of Sinbad and how many substances found in the blood, up to panel
interview my sanity assured out there in bright light
amend not pissing against glass or egg-laying by pool table,
Datura resplendent and quoting poetries faith dragged or faith
persisted for nought you might add lunching on a girder
Rockefeller Centre New York City 1932 and what vertigo
doesn’t do to the fallen so precise so hair by hair and glassy-eyed
a corona of guitars strung loose for prosthetic fingers
to power cybernetics black as drink we listen to, tales
we hijack to make scoring easier.


Where can I migrate
when you close all roads myself,
I take your place and bend
it out of shape, we grift
at checkpoints, saturate
port of entry with
their interviews?
Never out of winter,
it thins beneath us;
they navigate
as family follows,
and then get going
before all arriving,
as rootless as our passports:
slid across glass barriers,
stamped with ink
from where then
we are going.

Who rose out of the gloss
our boss took off the meeting?
A prayer-fest in gladiatorial precincts,
buildings glass-bombed and scarce.

Graphology 258-263: Faith

Between towns the flash-past in the to-and-from gist,
heavy-haulage especially seasonal, not exclusively;
river drying near harvest and quarry tools dangerous: wedges
forcing apart granite hill-guts, drill core explosives,
not in harvest, into the hill of caves and drawings;
doppler and section, sideswipe and high-pitched forced entry,
pink and blue seams and a polished market,
roadside trees of varying density, syncopation of canopy,
health, bark deflective or properties of absorbency
in relation to the gross tare mass speed shape of vehicle
will lift your head setting a charge: it’s mid-winter,
the fields and drop-away are green where grasses
grow; as far away is never further than between two
small towns attracting city traffic, school buses
going either way like a rise in the earth’s crust,
barely watershed; gradually, stone blocks lifted,
edge-fluted, overly long ripples that corrugate
into splits of edifice or institutions, to be piled
high to watch approaching traffic — twin pillars
with hill cut down, not done in bad faith:
nice bloke, they say, lifetime spent de-hilling,
when slow car overtakes long-haul double trailer,
the bend collapses, resonates, quarries.


Implacable on the boardwalk, implacable as the gas-powered road sweeper
edges closer, implacable as disaster on disaster piles up
like an in-tray, as the hairdresser wrestles with a customer,

who says no faith in science, no faith in New Hampshire
where the Patriot Missile factory nestles among woods,
where Cartesians look longingly towards sky, ocean, the fire

in their bellies; this chemistry in time of war games, where betwixt
two companies the laboratory spat out rays in sequence, chaos
beyond the fractionation of boron isotopes, and still fixed

to make equations, build molecules whose weight outshines
all cancers, prayers in deuterium not as regular hydrogen
with its lonely Dalton, the mass a worm in fossil rinds

and crib room shunning, those double-bonded PAHs
coming thick and fast, and still bending at the knees
to take up the slack, a radiant smile spreading through the bars.


So, I hang round with those seedy textual characters
all too often? A masculine implosion I’m compelled
to track, despite a taste so bad it exfoliates the mouth?

It’s a belief-system in need of second-guessing,
statistical anomalies like the smell of red brick
when it topped a century during our childhoods.

Someone then was sounding just like him,
and making a mess of fraud or flaw, to bring proof
to television’s distracted glow, its run of debt.


Praying so hard in the bed pressed hard against the wall
so one flank at least was covered, the world so sweet

hanging on the blue wall with blue ribbon
on the kind of card that peels in chunks when it grows old,

so hard because of something done, something that in reality
couldn’t be undone, so hard to slow rates of reaction in the blood,

so hard eyes scrunched and the mouth pursed
like no water had ever entered, no comfort
for any kind of thirst being sated, so hard
the soul, turned inside out, broke down
to water and carbon dioxide.

262 Death of Creeley

A death in doorstep
and tableaux,

of meeting suffix
and antonym

take back the give
and catchphrase

sound for its sake, it’s not,
we go back on old roads
to step on past

doorstep, its
monologues of room.

263 Ikon Painter

Writing the ikon
he embellished
love and beauty
as absorbed in
contemplative airs,
effusion of spirit
as clarity and boldness
of line; eggs in one basket,
gloss, portholes
through heaven, as fallen Byzantine
we glow in now, we degenerate
in spiritual glitz,
in faith as bold and brittle
as halo, as bold and brittle
as lambs, birds, trees
not captured in the detail
of delicate light.

Graphology 264-268: Faith

As logic as the cultural, lately of the square,
a Jameson-like buddy crossing
red-lit on Sunday, all manner of Churches
risen in stone, or pink stucco,
the minstrel in the window,
the squirrel hopping
in the vicinity of an eagle’s eyrie —
as polished granite, the ten commandments
echo town hall’s resplendent
house-of-worship/state separations,
a skateboard slicing
all space to wander off in choppy seas,
winter road-stuff
whipped up and stinging
the face, handy hearts
in bronze and civility, toys
not new but still co-operatively
novel, redemptive in potholes,
slough of hi-jinx, pylons
a-march over the hills.


That gravel pit near Poison Hill
on the Goldfields Road
heading out to Wheatlands — we played
there as kids, digging something up,
turning something over — cut across paddocks
on trail bikes to be so near the bitumen,
spinning wheels in gravel, cutting into the shoulder
of the hill; those friends of my cousins,
always adding on — rooms,
intensive piggeries,
hobbies sans nomenclature.


It makes sense now, after
speaking to Julie on the email: all signs
added to the land don’t hide the signs
beneath them. Even the clearing, cutting, hollowing,
digging, ripping, burning, exploding,
bulldozing, sowing, harvesting,
contouring, building, scarifying,
irrigating, trenching, drill-piping, mining,
salinating, or hallucinating won’t alter
what’s there, what’s been there, what will
be there after the healing — what can be seen
by those who know how to look, who know “damage”
is guilt, an end result of an out-of-control
selfish mob who moved in without seeing
or hearing or knowing in the first place.
On the other hand, the slightest shift
will bring change beyond the scope
of a lawless eye, out of the range
of its hearing.


“Urania speaks with darken’d brow:
‘Thou pratest here where thou art least;
This faith has many a purer priest,
And many an abler voice than thou.”

from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s In Memoriam, XXXVII.

Construct a past,
name stretched
somewhere I’ve been
can’t map myself without
your template, lounge-chair tweed,
ash in cylinders drooping
Magritte-style, humours, ability to drive long stretches
and get into nothingness — mirrored sunnies, can’t
while loathing it; can’t pass
as no attention details, can’t entablature,
cenotaph still unvisited,
on hills, hovering faultlines,
a getting-off, kind of; we walked
paths, hot in parks, we read undergrounds
of corrugated iron, fast cymballed music,
we played on candles.

268 Catechism

Mary on the banners: blue Mary
with gold tassels; prayers in good order,
hymns sung neatly; pews hard
but cushions to kneel on in the same blue
velvet, with gold braiding; common prayer,
candles, procession up the aisle,
wine and bread, confirmation; given
how often, strange there’s slippage.
White cloth, gold cross embroidered,
red somewhere, over the host.
A blessing. Lord’s Prayer.
One, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.
Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
Sin. Our will, not God’s. End result.
Mary on the banners: blue Mary
with gold tassels; keeping the sin
to ourselves; heart-sink and elation
of bells ringing; discomfort
sitting down, a mumble will do fine
when big voices soar, fill the hall.