Two Australian Poems


SALT LAKE

Sometimes the future’s flight is straight and smooth
like shining summer runways
but then it brings you way out here
where the ground is endless crust
that snaps underneath your feet
to free the thick black sludge that lurks below
and where the trees are pale dry prisoners
thrust deep in permanent winter,
their bony arms stretched wide in pleading
to whoever might have put them here.
Perhaps they come alive each night and clash –
giant skeletons under polished moon shield –
sharp cracking blows breaking a silence
that no one has ever heard
but then as dawn approaches they stiffen,
joints crunching as their backs grow rigid
and their hands lift once again in agony
as they stand to face the sun’s cruel gaze
like driftwood carved with strange inscriptions.

This is my forever world I walk in,
crunching through the flat white sheet
to sink in the squelching dark below
so my footsteps stretch behind me
like black ink spattered on a page;
no wind will ever shift them,
so when one day you reach this place
you’ll know just what they mean.
I belong out here where nothing changes;
soon I’ll be just a dense heart of decay,
an elemental core of toxic life waste,
my attention span shrunk to a painful dot
while random dreams circle round my head.
I take my place among the guilty naked;
my roots were poisoned long ago
and now my limbs can harden and set.

TWELFTH VIEW OF THE SOUTHERN CROSS
Uluru, central Australia, tomorrow night

The sky kite must be much the same
but looking up has changed;
war in space is the new theology.
Rocket junk floats like so many heresies
and orbiting communication links
have shouted down the angelic orders.
Any old poet who versed to paradise now
would have to dodge the pieces
and when they start shooting
each other’s things down with missiles
we’ll all end up in inferno.
Every species on earth
is a sacrificial victim
slowly bleeding to death
in the branches of this blurry tree.

Published in Fevers of the Mind

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