There’s something particularly relaxing about sitting on a headland and watching sets roll in to the bay: those long, glistening pipes rising slowly beneath a glazed blanket; they break, roll into froth and unravel into webbed triangles as they search for the shore—
not a rhythmic pulse
a stilted flow rippled with irregular gradations
it borders on a rhythm, meaning: something’s almost always happening, but it’s rarely a pattern; at most, a short series will collapse in a steady succession
that it’s so relaxing to watch suggests that the waves cohere somehow with my own, bodily rhythms—as if the body, seeing such movement, recognises it
not a pulse
there’s no pausing or sudden accelerations
no tough organ clutching and pumping
so it could be that my body is drawn to a rhythm beyond itself; its attraction to these waves is based on what it hopes for, or what it feels sure will happen—perhaps each wave is the path of a life; in other words, the body, like a wave, is a kind of burning filament, or a thawing berg
perhaps what we know as ‘sensation’ is as much the response to stimuli as it is the preparation for what is to come; the body looks for the rhythm into which it can rest
as it rises from the depths, collecting itself
sun shot through a barrel—coughed out in a mess
of foam and crystal,
I Love Mine
What the, what field, a coppice
of green shade and order clumped
into the grey-blue of my eye,
the brown and the dim skied into otherwise,
whatever’s seen, I cannot share it.
In my mind I’m a brown mountain,
a burnt-out country where love burns plains
into ragged horizon, that line
swept over the ranges, before which
all terror and all of its jewels are mine.
Here’s the death: ring-barked white
as the moon, tragic in my sapphire mist,
my tangled hush, my poem’s hot gold coil.
I raze forests for the decks around houses,
where I pot the world’s orchids,
I press death down, down into the south,
into simmering dark soil.
This cored heart, cored country,
my pitiless blue eyes, sick of art,
what we see, we can bless: we watch
our cattle die,
tear off their skins for drums
and soak ourselves in bloody beats;
our dead army, our memory,
our clouds of electric desire.
At the core of my heart is a cored country,
lands of rainbow rhyme
and reptile rhyme, golden fire; I
stripped it back threefold, from spirit
to serpent, serpent to parched
paddock, because I gaze, I gaze,
my oily green veil thickens as I gaze.
An opal hearse awaits my lavish will
in a country that never loved me,
that I will not understand. My thoughts
are hawks in search of earth’s splendours,
with crystalline vision blind to its basis:
brown land, black country,
the deaths I won’t see,
whose songs I’ll hear upon my own.
Extending the Blue Track, Minyirr Park
We’d thought it would take a lot longer.
The early sun slapped
our backs while we trudged down there,
our feet sinking into the red soil.
By the time we arrived,
the rangers had already unloaded the ropes and planks.
Eight or nine or so were in a line, thick planks of pine
strung together with plastic rope and laid out
like long ladders.
We rolled them up and
lugged them up the path,
which was hard enough because you’d trip
on the planks that had been laid down already, and
in the gaps between them the sand was soft and unsteady.
And the rolls would get caught on branches or
posts that were placed at intervals along the track
The dunes were pretty steep, too,
they were gathered like a squat mountain range
along the entire length of the beach.
We were happy to reach the top,
because we hit the breeze coming in off the ocean.
It was a great view
but you didn’t think about that much
because of the way it taunted you,
like the thought of swimming through cool water,
while your sweaty shirt stuck to you
and your hands were full of splinters.
It only took a couple of trips
to get all the rolls up to the top.
Then we had to go down and get more of the posts.
These were big but not so heavy; we formed a ragged chain
up the dune and passed them on to one another.
Still, your shoulders got pretty sore.
But that was all over soon enough
and we had gathered up the top of the dune again.
We could see the bare outline of the new track
winding on to the south;
in a couple of days’ time we’d have to take the rolls of planks
and lay them along it.
Miklo told us a bit: we were on the first hill
the spirit beings climbed when they came from the ocean
to wander out across the continent.
He pointed to two other points up the coast
where more came out and followed.
We went down and got on the tray of his ute for the ride
back to camp.
We’d rest through the hottest
hours of the day, from elevenish till mid-afternoon.
Most of the terrain was scooped out,
leaving behind green lumps of muscle
and outcrops of rose-grey marrow.
Anything substantially vertical or colourful
was stripped away; the remnants
survive in a wren, who weaves
the ground into blueness.
(Who’s he calling,
across this stretched, slumbering planet?)
Even in full sun the soil’s still damp;
everything speaks of waking from rain.
It’s a landscape weighed down with water;
it’s waiting to dry out, to unleash itself,
but greedy lochs smother nadirs
and insist, from the feet of their valleys,
on their fallen, smeared-iron skies.
A person on a ridge could be seen for miles;
the one who sees owns nothing
but the direction of departure.
Stuart Cooke is a poet, critic and translator. His recent works are the poetry collection, Opera (2016), and a translation of an Aboriginal songpoem, George Dyuŋgayan’s Bulu Line: a West Kimberley song cycle (2014). His translation of Gianni Siccardi’s The Blackbird is forthcoming. He lives on the Gold Coast, Australia, where he lectures at Griffith University.
Featured image: painting by Giacomo Cuttone http://www.cuttone.altervista.org/gall/completa.html