Three Poems by Mark Tredinnick

SOMETIMES PEACE

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For Jodie

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DOWN IN the saltmarsh along the lake’s shore,

    A single egret leans among grasses – who are

        What persistence looks like, a weary brown uproar,

    A long time coming – and she is a furled flag

Of surrender, as if she’s given up reluctantly

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On giving in. From well before I woke in the mouth

    Of dawn beside you, the butcherbird’s unrelenting call

        To arms – or perhaps it’s to prayer, it’s hard to say –

    Has been flaying the peace of morning more peaceful yet

With phrases full of violent intent. Three swans, scored

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On the water like three black notes in the composer’s

    Finished phrase, swim between the fingers, poised to play

        Them, of three roughbarked apples. Farther out, a pelican,

    Trawling morning waters, gets himself an education

For a breakfast among a school of bream. A single

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Shag runs a straight dark topographic line, a grace

    Note, north to south, across the shallows. Friarbird

       Cadges cigarettes against the raucous outcry of

    The wattlebirds. The call to arms of butcherbird

Cries on. Magpie lark and sheoak, paperbark and sedge

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And nesting herons: the whole morning rises up against

    What cannot be endured: the ping of emails coming in

        Like ordnance, lines of thought at odds with what

    Sustains the earth and oils the peaceful engine

Of the heart. Sometimes you find yourself

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At war. Most often with yourself. This morning

    It’s the wrens at war with solitude in the grass beneath

        The trees. Sometimes war’s a song you have to join

    And sing until it’s sung. Sometimes peace will not

Endure until you find a boat and cross a world

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Of other people’s seas to talk some violence down

    By doing some yourself. Until it ends. Until you break

        The lines of killing thought and spawn a space for love.

    Sometimes peace cannot be kept by keeping it; peace

Keeps those who stand for what peace makes. No sure lines

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Defend against bad moves time wants to bust –

    Not the rows you harrow in the rusting fields; not

        The lines your people’s feet sing up walking

    Your country awake; not the lines of hope, the rope

That swings your children gaily in the orchard of your eye.

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And on these shores a hundred years ago, the sea

    Washed up a dozen foreign feuds and currencies and fables,

        Whose morals called you away. And so you left

    The factory, the dinner table, the field, fifteen

Thousand reasons not to go, but nonetheless,

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A war to end all wars to join, and so you boarded

    Boats and sailed. You fooled yourself you went

        For fun; you said you went for Empire, for Honour,

    For six weeks’ tops. It was for years; for some, it was

For keeps. For war will maim or murder no matter

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Why you think you go. No matter that

    You didn’t pick the fight or field. No war

        Can end all war; no peace will ever hold.

    But it seems right to thank the souls who try.

Flight would fail the birds, you feel,

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If few birds chose to fly. And peace would

    Fail if no one said a word for it or held its lines.

        And here today, we lie along this closer shore

    In grasses, inside the privilege of peace

Our private wars, my love, have won.

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And now you break a pumpkin scone, like bread,

    And cast its several pieces, like the Lord himself,

        Upon the grass. Nothing comes to claim it until

    At nine the sun breaks out, and a wattlebird

Comes in shyly for the kill and soon word

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Will be scent among the other birds and beings

    Who comprise a peace we keep so deep it threatens                            

        To end all war. Three swans swim the lake again, two herons

    Make off with the afternoon, and in the sheoaks older

Voices sing. And all the words they sing become the shore.

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FOUR RESERVOIR TANKA

 

DO YOU THINK the rez,

    This reluctant wetland, cares

That I come among

    Its crestfallen timbers, late

And incapable of love?

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I REMEMBER, then,

    Another day when two hawks

Spun the shallows still –

    And a squall of firetails, their

Voices an ember attack.

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AND ANOTHER: dusk

    A musk across the water’s

Mouth. Woods upended

    In the weir, and the dog wild

Among small birds like lament.

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THAT DAY one scrubwren

    Flew too slow for cover. I

Stood while, in weeds, she

    Schooled her wing to work again.

My heart, the briar where she flew.

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WHY YOU’RE HERE; IN CASE ONE DAY YOU NEED TO KNOW

 

  1. DON’T OUTSOURCE your Self. You are

What you’re here for. You are where

You need to go and why and how. And

You are the company you need to keep.

You are the way you need to wander

And you are the place you need

To make, and not just for yourself.

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  1. TO COME TRUE IS WHY

They sent you; to see off your fears;

To outsmart all you keep thinking

You know; to grow clever as a tree,

Holy as the bluest light, old as rivers,

Useful as a stone temple in the soft-

Spoken mouth of a valley ten thousand

Feet up in the highest range of hills

Earth knows how to find. You are

Here to find out why you’re here—

Just you, just now—and why you’ve

Been given just these hands and only

So much to hold onto. You’re here

To fall back all the way, if you can,

Into the beauty you arrived with, the

Beauty you cannot quite convince

Yourself you carry, for the world

Is often ugly when you look there

For yourself. And you’re here to die

Back out of others’ bad ideas of who

You are and what they reckon you’re

Worth.

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  1. YOU’RE HERE TO LEARN

To walk the way that only your feet can

Teach you. You’re here to find a way

To reach in and draw from the wound

That weeps you the sting that sings

The hymn of how you alone can heal

A small piece of world, beginning where

You are, the way it hardly knew it

Wanted healing. You’re here to work

Out how to dwell in your life, at last,

The way the note the bell will strike wells

In the bell. How it waits. How it rings.

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  1. YOU’RE HERE TO DIVINE

The world a bit, to walk the god in you

Out with you, to make your moment

On earth worthy of the suffering it costs

You. And those you love. And the earth.

You’re here to keep coming undone, to

Keep opening, like an answer toward its

Question, like sound toward silence, like

An echo toward a voice, like one toward

Another. Like water, you’re here to run.

You’re here to throw the light that only

You can throw. Like a shaft. Like

A blanket. Like a party.

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About the contributor

Mark Tredinnick
Mark Tredinnick’s third collection, A Gathered Distance (BirdFish), appeared in February 2020; his fourth, Walking Underwater (Pitt Street), surfaces in December. Mark’s books include The Blue Plateau and Fire Diary; his awards, an OAM, the Montreal, and two Premiers’ Prizes. For more on Mark and his online poetry masterclasses: marktredinnick.com.au

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