the outlook: much as it has always been
the Point Vernon rocks stretched to the horizon
the Scarness jetty on seabird stilts
its barnacled shins bare in an ebbing tide
the ocean’s broderie anglaise edge
the dogs chasing sticks
the curving cotton trees stippled with yellow flowers
the sand wet from a wolf moon tide
a mushroom rainstorm out at sea —
onyx on aqua —
but here: still golden
the storm will reach us soon
in the paper a story of the sweet relief
of rain that kills
tens of thousands of rotting fish
washed up on the Macleay River banks
choked by ash
accounts of landslides and dislodged trees
debris of the extinguishing downpours
a scientist explaining how burnt soil repels moisture
even water-loving creatures not safe from pain
and it’s not easy to recreate
your own early calm
if the woodblock resists the paint
if the palette is leaden
I sit at Enzo’s drinking coffee
watching pure colour swirl into the sea
as the first drops fall
POEM LATE IN THE DAY AT A MARKET
No words form even when I stop, see star anise ripen,
watch olives squatting plumply in vats, graduations
of apples and melons. All a little tired. Like me.
Yoghurt mango- or berry-striped, flowers of every colour –
even green – endless aromas of herb and 40 kinds
of organic pasta sauce. But none of these combinations
make any sense to me today. I can’t imagine
how the flavours could ever simmer, mix, and
reconvene on the comfort of a pale blue-striped plate.
I buy soup, and tonic to go with gin, amble past a full
aisle of lemons, limes, banks of lettuce, cauliflower –
harmonies of infinite colours that must together
make meaning. But outside, past where
I pay, there is the umbrousness of early dark – palm trees
pared down under street lamps – people carrying their
boxes of inspiration, homogenising as I watch into a
sweeping dark wave of words, to night consuming day.
I am raking forests of coral to cleave a large square of gritty sand.
It will be lined with walls of limpet shells: a zoo geometry.
Bivalve brumbies buck until their hinges break.
Cuttlefish crocodiles laze in lambent tanks,
the wetness a fast evaporating magic.
A cemetery of calcium crunch stretching out
to wide jaws of coffee rock bookending the bay: my empire.
Sky almost not blue – watchit. Wide.
At the horizon, smalt stripes lustrous beyond shallow turquoise.
Summer whiting bite on invisible lines (I think I can hear them),
tinnies glinting out deep.
A bucket, a shoreline, a zoo.
Shells glint, extravagant in sarsaparilla pools,
seaside snail cities prone to tsunami.
Wrack, riprap, the spiral handwriting of gastropods;
left or right, like us. My great aunt told me about that.
I don’t collect any with flaws that time has captured
and gnawed on, only pristine specimens.
We are leaving soon and I know the tide will lap higher,
that the zoo created in a day will return to the sea.
The shell animals are corralled, but will break free –
swim clear of fences, forests.
The cowrie elephant
I take with me.
A desert where it never rains, far from any flood plain
so words and imaginings went there to die, not expecting
a rebirth after two millennia. From the buried monasteries
and mosques, the necropolis for sacred ibis and baboon
birds, papyrus spluttered from tightly packed beds once
unzipped, mathematical equations serried with sweet
recipes, grocery lists, invitations to dinner, spells like the
one that would make a man leave her and love you for
good, mummy middens with their cartonnage of Sappho
fragments and classic texts, caches of Christian doctrines,
the anaerobic letters of abandon that weren’t ever meant
to be found. Had been thrown in the trash. Lost in landfill.
In the woodcut I saw online, there are tower ruins and a
simple sweep of dunes. Date palms. A monumental stone
gate. Like looking out a window:
when I open mine, pages
flap and threaten to peel from their suburban dossier. A
subterranean headache today: layers of me compressed
beneath timetables and spreadsheets, unanswered texts,
vet bills, scribbled notes on the backs of used envelopes
about the way the butcherbirds in my garden fly, books of
Barcelona walks and best baby names, curling photographs
of relatives I never met, printouts about the potential adverse
effects of dope on the teenage brain. The catacombs of half-
written poems: a sheaf of first lines that I must once have
thought had potential.