Brigalow: An Extinct Pastoral (2016, Unpublished

 Acknowledgments

Poems in this collection were previously published in Australian Poetry Journal, Australian Poetry Members Anthology 2015, Bimblebox Art project website, Connective Tissue 2015 Newcastle Poetry Prize Anthology Cordite, Clubs and Societies Red Room Project, foam:e, fourW, Idiom 23, Ipswich City Council- Ipswich Poetry Feast website, Island, LinQ, Meanjin, Plumwood Mountain, Now You Shall Know 2013 Newcastle Poetry Prize Anthology, Sotto, Social Alternatives, Speedpoets, The Age, The Best Australian Poems 2017, The 2017 Montreal International Poetry anthology, The Weekend Australian and Westerly.

Golden Bowerbird’ was shortlisted for the 2014 Manning Clark House National Cultural Awards — Axel Clark Memorial Prize for Poetry.

‘Soldier Parrots’ was longlisted in the 2014 Ron Pretty Poetry Prize.

‘Eel-tailed catfish’ was longlisted in the 2015 University of Canberra’s Vice Chancellor Award for Poetry.

‘Counter-pastoral at 140kph’ was shortlisted in the 2015 Newcastle Poetry Prize.

‘Guadalcanal’ was shortlisted in the 2017 Montreal International Poetry Festival.

Many thanks to all the poetry editors who support my work through publication, particularly to the Red Room company for commissioning my work for their ‘clubs & societies’ project.

 

 

Contents

  1. Albert’s Lyrebird
  2. Wedge-tailed Eagles
  3. Bunya Pines
  4. Strangler Fig
  5. Dollarbird
  6. Vic Hislop’s Shark Show
  7. Sacred Kingfisher
  8. Brolgas
  9. Beeble Gas
  10. Eastern Bristlebird
  11. Regent Honeyeater
  12. Darling Downs Earless Dragon
  13. Spotted Tailed Quoll
  14. Red Shift
  15. Double-Eyed Fig Parrot (Coxen’s)
  16. Superb Fairy Wrens
  17. Indian Mynahs
  18. Black-throated Finch
  19. Goomburra
  20. Bush Stone Curlew
  21. Unicorns Cross Here
  22. Golden Bowerbird
  23. Freckled Ducks
  24. Powerful Owl
  25. Orange-bellied Parrot
  26. Eel-tailed Catfish
  27. Bufo Marinus
  28. China First
  29. Brigalow
  30. Great Barrier Reef
  31. Ellison Reef, Mission Beach
  32. Flat-headed Catfish
  33. Satin Bowerbird
  34. Angstcination
  35. Counter-Pastoral at 140kph
  36. Scarlet-Shouldered Parrot
  37. Soldier Parrots
  38. Yakka skink
  39. Ornamental Snake
  40. Maureen Cooper’s Quilt (Bimblebox Nature Reserve)
  41. Southern Boobook Owls
  42. Night Parrots
  43. Guadalcanal
  44. Chinchilla
  45. Magpies
  46. A Scrub
  47. At Play with Grey-Crowned Babblers
  48. Brown Booby
  49. The Hunted
  50. Pilliga
  51. Carboniferous
  52. Lord Howe Island Phasmid, Land Lobster
  53. Grindle Road
  54. Selfie with Dolphin
  55. Bee Fleeting
  56. Barnacle
  57. Chimaera
  58. Snow Geese

 

 

 

Albert’s Lyrebird

 

(i)

He whistled to her & like an inquisitive dog

The bowl of her head angled, a satellite dish

To receive the new music. She was muttering

Away in some mimic’s foreign language when

He stumbled upon her; a woodland Pokémon

That evolved the power of water & then slaked

Some deeper desire in him. The brown, rusted

Stovepipe of her tail feathers swung back &

Forth, as each great scratch of her garden fork

Claws ripped the humus open like rotten cloth.

As he fell, he noticed the bathtub-sized granite

Boulders were covered in grey lichen squares,

Cool & treacherous as damp flannels on a tiled

Floor. Momentum snared, he heard her scream.

 

(ii)

A Trojan War had passed since he last saw one.

Oracle elusive, it had tracked him like a prophecy

Or some shadowy ninja as he hiked at Lamington.

Then it had melted into the forest floor like a fat

Witchetty grub, a curled white question mark of

Memory he could only find again if he dug deeply.

He picked himself up, mud stigmata slashed across

His palms as he retook the track, his partner shaking

Her head at the plunge of birdmen. Or that his cry

Had become a lyrebird’s sound effect. Recorded for

Posterity like he was the endangered animal, a loss of

Pride’s habitat. Their black ship of extinction hauled

Up on nature’s beachhead, time caulking their voice’s

Hull; faint echoes of crackling bushfire & corroboree.

 

 

Vic Hislop’s Shark Show

 

(i)

Chunks of friendly green coral arranged like garden path lights

Offset the pink froth of photographs where white pointers roil

In death & whale flesh ecstasy. Walls, rough with decades of

Newspaper clippings are busy as a shark’s mouth, as Vic returns

Annually to defend his territorial waters. For each gullet he

Slits open he changes the future; stomach contents prophetic,

Generations of turtles, whales & dolphins indebted to the dark

Eco warrior. At knee height, a porpoise sticks out of a tiger shark’s

Dead maw like a rollie balanced between the lips of an elite grey-

Clad soldier. Its thuggish grin remains, black poker chip eyes

Dealing fear. Another two tonne monster hangs over the roof

Of a Morris minor like some engorged surfboard, the metal

Buckling under the weight of its killer reputation. Jaded violence

In every corner of this seaside grotto; a temple to a dying race.

 

(ii)

The shark show’s centrepiece, the refrigerated great white has lost

Its childhood lustre, its grey streamlined bulk wilted like a pressed

Flower rediscovered after thirty years between the pages of a book.

A failed scarecrow of its former power. Its raging gums blackened

& shrivelled like some diseased oak tree; memory’s fungus ossifying

Its natural majesty. Modern science has not stopped it aging. The skin

Around its gills flayed open, as if it were a cardboard box left overnight

To the appetite of morning dew. Its hibernation has not been kind. This

Dread Tutankhamen of fish preserved in its frozen tomb. No Snow White

In her crystal coffin stasis, its face has yellowed, its kodachrome expression

Still captures blind anger. Only its teeth have remained white & sharp,

As if they were cast in evolution’s forge from steel that can never dull.

Still, they file past this Lenin of the deep blue, respectful parents & kids

Brought up on tall stories; wipe condensation to get a better view.

 

 

Beeble Gas

For Louie

 

(i)

It is a dirty old story.

Of a boom & bust cycle

Beyond the scale of anything.

Earth, an over-oxygenated fish

Tank burst with nutrient growth.

The original hothouse skyscrapers;

Carboniferous gods that thrust

Themselves like a giant’s beanstalk

Up through the world’s wet roof.

Giant ferns unwound like contrary

Clock springs, the cogs of their spores

Spun over the forest’s damp floor

As green fibrous assassins choked

The life out of titans, millennial wise.

 

(ii)

Time, the eternal miner

Chipped patiently away

At the world forest’s rich

Vein. Spent eons loading

New atoms into the trunks

Of lifeless trees as though

Presents were being stuffed

Into a Christmas stocking.

It was a Frankenstein morph

In reverse, a transformation

Of the living into the dead.

There was a smell of methane

As the Earth’s fist squeezed

& the black putrefaction began.

 

 

(iii)

It was searched for

Like a cardiac surgeon

Sniffing out a heartbeat.

At first ungainly, where

The flicker of a pulse

Registered at the surface

Of the Earth’s thick skin

Like an Adam’s apple’s bob.

It was witnessed protruding

Through creek banks like a weft

Of femur erupting from a shattered

Leg. Then, the vivisection began.

Black marrow sucked out of the bone

Like breath out of a lung.

 

(iv)

Then the desire was to go deeper,

As if pumping one body full of chemicals

Would cure the disease that appeared

In everyone else. So they went at it; a gold

Rush hysteria as needles pin-cushioned

The earth’s dark suit. A voodoo curse

Bringing pain to the body’s deep flesh.

They brushed aside relatives who moped

Around the old fence line & dug for their

Lives as though they were children, mining

Crab tunnels with a wild irreverent glee.

Never minding where the vortex of sand

Flew, which locals were upset or whose eyes

Watered, as grains bit into a delicate few.

 

(v)

It is like cutting the fin

Off a blue shark’s body

& throwing the bleeding

Trunk back into the water;

To die by sluggish drowning.

A useless thing choking on its

Own being. It is trawling by

Impossible numbers or cutting

Off an iceberg’s tip, to harvest

Slush for a short-lived cocktail

Party. A drunken yield for refined

Tastes, that loses sight of the ocean.

It is clearing an entire forest in order

To build a temporary airstrip.

 

(vi)

It is the mistaken language of a child

An innocent’s trick, mouthing ‘beeble’

For bird; the meaning crystal clear

As a water table left untapped, but

Its annunciation polluted when the time

Comes to extract. This is a body without

The need to resuscitate, a set of lungs

Without the desire to inflate.

It is the breaking of a hundred million

Year old pact, the thieving of a fairy-tale

Giant’s coal sack. A boom & bust cycle

Beyond the scale of anything.

It is cutting off a dirty old story before

The narrator reaches the punch line.

 

 

Red Shift

For Judith Wright

 

Gravity is rolling her particles into a child’s spit ball.

Like a student chewing paper in the classroom’s dark,

There is something unlawful about our decline & fall.

In her honour, eucalypts shed their clothes, drop bark.

 

She has already touched the universe’s filigreed edge.

The red shift galaxies shine singularly as flame trees

In a distant quarry; their blooms are a well-kept hedge

That borders our knowledge; doubt swarms like bees.

 

She had long been a part of it; her hand me down cells

She returned to the sun’s up-market store. A dying star’s

Decaying gift signalled the blow of her heart’s iron bell;

As her last breath vanished like the atmosphere on Mars.

 

She is monumental now; as though there was a Marathon

Mound of ancient Greek heroes piled up inside her head.

She was the flint of eco-consciousness that was fiery born,

When she struck at the builders who cleared out the dead.

 

Still, the Earth sucks in its belt-line & gyrates its middle age

Spread. Forests recede like hairlines thinning out, as the hand

Of progress combs through them. All that’s left is hollow rage,

As small groups of creatures turn & make their final stand.

 

Judith. Her poems are etched on the trunks of scribbly gum.

Insect mouths chew through the grain of her poetic field.

As they kill, borers translate her words into a universal tongue,

& hollow trunks of eucalypts drum; never yield, never yield.

 

 

Double-Eyed Fig Parrot (Coxen’s)

Cyclopsitta diophthalma coxeni

 

Look for the tell-tale signs of our existence.

Half eaten purple fruit dark as a shark’s eye

Or the bruised thumb of an adult human,

That falls with Newtonian grace; an invisible

Thump; a musket ball falling onto the forest’s

Soft eiderdown floor. Gravity dents the fabric.

A small emerald feather starfishing in a hiking

Boot’s artificial lake, like green ink released into

A beaker; its fuzzy tendrils unfurling like a foot.

If your close encounter is more than this, if you

Have spied the fist-sized parrot skulking in tree-

Tops, or looked into its beak as it shears sugar-

Laden skin; you have written a rare communiqué.

A love letter so personal, it ignites at the touch.


 

Unicorns Cross Here

 

(i)

There is true north; there is the far north; then there’s

The deep north. Cook, possibly bemused by this tropic

Irony, his twenty-foot fibreglass effigy fully decked out

In his eighteenth century finest; red coat, white Captain’s

Hair wig & pallid stockings, blue fleet commanders’ hat

Advertising the Tradie’s Bar. Towering over Cairns like

Some erect Gulliver at attention, hands folded behind

Him like a small boy in an expensive gift shop, his crab-

Hard skeleton ridged with finger length spines, as if after

Two centuries his legacy is at last coming to reflect his

Environment. Like the spiky stem of a giant rainforest

Palm, his prickly countenance expansive as his working

Class thirst; ambition slaked by exploration, his origins

Foreign as this new continent of hot & muggy dreams.

 

(ii)

Exiting Cairns, the white possession’s semantic legacy

Thrives in the historical names of rivers & creeks, as though

The bloody transition of the victor’s language is a fecund badge

Of municipal honour to be worn on the sleeve of the state’s

Cracked bitumen highways. The ancient bureaucracy somehow

Blameless in its generational absence: racist discourse clocked

Off & down at the pub; Chinaman Creek, Blackfellow Creek, quirky

Throwback titles to some ambiguous sense of place; perhaps

Named in honour of their once upon a time cultural presence

Along these mangrovy waterways, now disappeared, the lack

Of context unsettling, as reports of Deep Creek’s beheaded croc.

A contemporary settler payback for a family pet taken, a terrier

That stopped to drink one too many times from a sacred spot.

A gruesome totem to appease the mud-caked, Lord of the Flies.

 

(iii)

Through the silk thin mist, sugarcane fields stand as Roman armies

At the end of empire. Forlorn, thirsty, they occupy the flat ground,

Blades held stiff as they form up, row upon green row in perfect

Drilled unison. A thousand years of domesticating iron has tamed

The wilderness. Axes bite deeper than words, saw teeth whisper in

Death’s white noise. On the hills behind them, the rainforest seethes

In undisciplined chaos; disordered ranks thrown back in confusion.

Strangler vines criss-cross cedar chests like bandoliers of rope ready

To scale the camp’s irrigation ditches & red earthen walls. By mid-

Morning civilisation’s haze has been burnt off by the sun’s kerosene

Lighter. Magpie geese guard the paddock edges. The crests of Great

Egrets rise like centurions’ horsehair plumes, as they take flight to

Encircle the square formations. In the pitched mêlée between nature

& progress, the battlefield scavengers always wind up the fattest.

 

(iv)

Naïve warning! The crystal caves of Atherton are not real caverns

Of unique crystalline formations home-grown over a millennia of drip

Drying minerals hung from their hills hoist sediment; filled with black

Crevices where microbats huddle together like a Scotsman’s sporran

Or a witch’s pouch bulging with fangs & wings. Nor is it a proper

Natural landmark on which Dutch tourists can climb up to take

A better photo & perish in their ironic attempts at immortality.

It is a tourist simulacrum of the glittering caves; amethyst crystals

Large as dragon eggs imported from conquered lands like Aztec

Gold adorning a plunging Spanish neckline. Next door they’ve

Opened up a fossil shop fast tracking a new Moroccan industry;

Where Devonian sea floors are spaded up like squares of fine

Grass from a turf farm & polished until they gleam; modern

Vanities that were pre-ordered, half a million years ago.

 

(v)

Port Douglas’s stinger net is aptly named; for it is tourists who are stung.

A council security smokescreen; box jellyfish hang like toolies on the edges

Of Four Mile Beach’s swimming enclosure, threatening postures barred, their

See-through chests stretch like aerodrome windsocks inflated in a cyclone.

They pulse fear, but are merely the venom vanguard of the holiday season

As nature cracks this problem & employs its latest nano technology; irikanji

To infiltrate the nets, a bio weapon smuggled into summer’s secure terminal.

Orange-footed Scrubfowl scratch up the sand like children, unperturbed by

Their killer reputation, while in palm trees, rainbow lorikeets speak in their

Language of smashed stones. They grate out the story of a woman who,

One day while swimming in the enclosure, went to fish out a log that she

Noticed bobbing inside the net. As she swam over, the trunk submerged.

The locals, smug in their survival knowledge don’t swim here; in these man-

Made aquariums, where scooping out estuarine crocodiles is a weekly menu.

 

(vi)

The Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher drags its long, white tail feathers

Through Julatten’s sluggish ring of air like a prize-fighter trailing spittle

After a knockout punch. Its twin struts belong to some other era

Of wartime aerodynamic experimentation; a P-38 Lockheed Lightning

On its ground attack run, finishing off Japanese airfields, diving through

The jungle’s camouflage net to avoid detection. It’s a skywriter; the plumes

Of its continuous white dash, a game of hangman across the forest’s page,

As males spell out their need for love. Perched, its tail flick is a courtship

Gear stick shift into fifth; evolution’s smooth mechanism rolls on, oiled

& preened to perfection like military dress. Its red-orange bill bursts like

New Year’s Eve fireworks, as white streamers shoot out over the creek’s

Cobblestone alley, a V- Day celebration for the end of seasonal conflict.

Contrails that split the azure sky in their flypast salute. Bandleaders;

They twirl their feathery batons as spring’s victory parade marches on.

 

(vii)

Crocodile paranoia inundates the wet tropics every rainy season,

Fogging the tourist mind. It all started in the 80s, one New Year’s Eve.

Thirty years of population recovery. A midnight swim in the Daintree,

Toes brushing against something rocky under the black water; the fleeting

Touch providing little warning. The cool water relieving night’s stickiness,

Caressing her body like falling into freshly washed sheets. Then the violent

Waist grab, the drugged brain trying to justify the burning sensation. First

Thoughts of a male friend’s poorly timed practical joke, his sex-charged

Fingers too eager, pinching into her hip’s soft flesh. The wildfire spreading

Over her skin like the aftermath of an all-day tattoo. Her body flipped over;

The enormous strength pulling her under the dark tow; a father throwing

Their child around in a pool. The frantic half-breath never enough.

The searing of the lungs more painful; the syphoning away of last air

Mocking the agony in her side. Her first & last drink of the new year.

 

(viii)

The wild horse crossing sign has been graffitied; its black ear extended

Into a unicorn’s horn by some witty local. Neither, do the speed hump

Signs fare any better, the dark half-moons transformed into smiley faces,

Black holes, flying saucers & peace symbols, as though having to slow down

Is somehow made more bearable if changed into the fantastical; like giving

The finger to an impatient P plater barking from behind you on a hundred

Year old, one lane, wooden bridge. The imagined world is shifting; it’s easier

To spot a Southern cassowary behind a wire fence at a jungle zoo, though

The crowds are drawn to reptilian danger & ignore this megapode at their

Peril; the disembowelling clawed toe like a cocked gun at extinction’s head.

Above 850 metres, Golden bowerbirds build stick skyscrapers; the largest

Penthouses in the rainforest. This pattern is recognisably human; to carve

Out territory for yourself & to pass on phoenix genes to your children.

This we all cross: in the true, far, deep north, all life is selfish by nature.

 

 

Golden Bowerbird

For ‘Chook’ Crawford

 

When the male golden bowerbird finally alighted

On a lichened giant, one thousand metres above sea

Level; he was tricked. He’d responded instinctively,

As though protecting his two metre tall wicker bower

From rivals, was just a rapid eye blink of sexual angst.

‘Chook’ had called him in; bearded like Odin, he held

Loki’s device, an iPod that overflowed with birdsong

Like a chatty Mt Lewis spring. Rigged to the palm-sized

Aviary by its sinuous tongue was a magic amplifier that

Grated out its territorial challenge. When he accepted

The trial, it was if all the sun’s warmth had magnified

Into a single yellow beam that wove through the forest’s

Dark crown, to rest, feather light on the branch’s head.

They witnessed a star’s birth under the canopy of space.

 

 

Freckled Ducks

 

The forty odd freckled ducks lived & died on water.

Like plain country folk dressed in blue-checked shirts

& dark moleskins, they were raised in the same town

& buried too, within its familiar, territorial limits. Or

Like a housewife knifed by a stranger in her kitchen,

Their deaths: some brutal transgression of the home;

A sticky, bloodshot lagoon silted up after three good

Seasons. Their weir consolidated its life-giving asset,

As if it was a colonial outpost counting out its last

Rounds; their reed camouflaged pond transformed

Into an unstable ammo dump. Their billabong; some

Balkan village about to be liquidated. Lead pellets fell

Through their skins’ crust; like how a coin-sized piece

Of neutron star would slip straight through the earth.

 

 

Bufo Marinus

 

The cane toad has put the troll under the bridge out of work.

Mary Shelley’s nightmare wore a thick leather coat of warts.

 

Frankenstein was just one reanimated corpse; 200 million

Of him would’ve sent shivers through any ecologist’s pulse.

 

Both were bred in labs; both were conceived by scientists

Who dreamed of elemental things; of pumping life back

 

Into sugar. One beast was bipedal & had long legs that

Pistoned mechanically as he stalked toward his victims.

 

Evolution has gifted the swampy vanguard of the other

With longer front legs; they suffer from the rapid advance

 

Of arthritis. The golem killed with hands that crushed his

Victim’s throats like we’d squash a cardboard toilet roll.

 

The gremlins kill by being threatened; or eaten, their

Glands go hyperactive & excrete their milky poison.

 

They corrode the inside of snakes & goannas quicker

Than salt eats away at metal on the coast. These sacs

 

Of toxin sit on both sides of their shoulders like pus-

Filled rugby pads. Frankenstein’s bolts are screwed in

 

Too on the opposite sides of his neck & clamp his head

To his throat. Both of their skins can look brown, grey &

 

Mottled, as if these ghouls are camouflaged for the grave.

Both species come out at night & will frighten you alive.

 

By day they mostly hide; the toads hunch in wet crevices

Under logs, while the phantom lies in his free hospital bed.

 

They have few natural predators. Humans try to kill them

But even after a rain of golf club blows, they’ll be gone by

 

Breakfast. They can both absorb damage to their bodies

& reanimate it seems. This classes them as mostly undead.

 

The cold affects them; one stumbled off into the snow

To die alone like Oates, the other expires in the freezer.

 

One was the result of pure fiction; toads a scientific horror.

An imported fact that spread rapidly like an acid spill across

 

A flat bench top. The experimental giant’s story is a classic.

1930s biological thinking is classic experimental stupidity.

 

The scientists though, are never out of work. Their job is

Expanding. They’ll have to delve deeper than the toads can

 

Burrow, into the damp recesses of their genetic structure &

Disrupt sex pheromones by zapping them with electricity.

 

They’ll try to destroy the female monsters, fearful of this

Potential species, or sterilise the male population natively.

 

Frankenstein was neutered too. No amount of galvanism

Could raise his bolt, his sex glossed over like a Ken doll.

 

If you see them, you must report them to the authorities.

They kill dogs, local fauna, & humans who make soup

 

Out of their eggs. They’re only trying to find an identity

In this new place, but it’s our way of life they threaten.

 

They were modern Prometheuses, those scientist-titans

Who sought to give farmers the secret of pest-free sugar,

 

But upset the natural equilibrium & birthed a creature

Beyond all reckoning. This is a gothic tale of creation.

 

 

China First

‘We should not call this land our mother, but our grave.’

Macbeth

 

They are busy creating human impact craters that

Dwarf Wolf Creek & that can be seen from space.

 

They are busy terra forming the Earth into its coz

Mars, stripping not its magnetic field, but its guts.

 

They are busy with their dozers & chains clearing

The trees, the termite mounds that store carbon.

 

They are busy doing deals & if they can’t do deals

They are busy using their money to fund the party.

 

They are busy looking after their short-term profits

& damn those long-term ancestors & old songlines.

 

They are busy downplaying their residual impacts

They have ‘offsets’ to compensate for their big hole.

 

They are busy creating new jobs & new infrastructure

The black-throated finches will exist on half an acre.

 

They are busy securing Australia’s future by exporting

To China first. There’s no profit in living in the past.

 

They are busy making workers fortunes on long shifts

But not there to pick up the pieces of smashed families.

 

They are busy making plans to go to Mars and mine it

Where there are no trees & no black-throated finches.

 

They are busy, flat out, run off their feet, flat-strap, under

Pressure, backs to the wall, hitting deadlines, digging in.

 

 

Brigalow: an Extinct Pastoral

Acacia harpophylla

 

It was shaving a giant’s hairy body to reduce friction

& speed things up. Each fracture of a Brigalow trunk,

the taut string of a Jarowair songline snapping; ancient

wires curled into a foetal position as the D9s chewed

through acacias like witchetty grubs weakening a tree’s

hardwood core. Local councils paid up bounties to clear

‘scrub’ into the 80s. They strung a necklace of iron pearls

between two dozers; manacled violence, like nineteenth

century convicts kept under guard. The machines clawed

through six million acres, rubbing against bark, leaving

a scent trail of oil & diesel, as though they were some

type of ancient megafauna revisited; extinct, buttery-

furred thylacoleo, carnivorous in their vast appetite.

 

Then their kitchen knife shiny blades scratched out

the jagged stumps that leaked blood-amber & later

hardened into ruby stalactites & froze to the broken

lip of the forest’s open mouth. The rich, alluvial soil

ruptured like a freshly dug mass grave, as the tree-

pushers tossed black wattle bodies into loose piles

& burnt them. Genocide’s sleight of hand perfected

on nature first. Trees as numbers. Dozer drivers

saw straight through their bee-yellow badges, their

earmuffs silenced the forest’s death rattle, made

the weary farmers bomber-pilot resilient to raining

down destruction. The ovens were crude fire pits

that melted down acacia sap like looted gold, so that

it pooled tawny in this open furnace’s charcoal bed.

 

These chains of being breaking coffee-stained teeth

of white ant hills that housed avian clay diamonds.

The Paradise Parrot, a smashed green, red, & blue

panel in the Darling Downs stained glass window.

The termite mounds rose like a child’s best castle

or miniature gothic cathedrals built of sand & grass,

masticated & stored in the climate-controlled fridge

interior. These insects stowing carbon before there

was a price put on the planet’s bushranger head.

The shotgun entry-wound sized nest holes blasted

into mounds by the birds, as though evolution had

manufactured the perfect cavity for humans to

dynamite these architectural wonders of the insect

world. The cool pyramids sawn off at their bases;

cut down like pseudo-trees or scooped up in the rough

hands of front end loaders & rolled into tennis courts.

 

The ignorant paddocks of youth where natural beauty

was witnessed in the solitary survivors of cultivation.

Coolabah trees surrounded by seas of grass, trunks

twisted like the wrenched skin of a ‘Chinese burn’ or

New Holland nymphs caught in a transformative act;

god-frozen as punishment for their greenest pride.

Half of them ringbarked by pink-flared galahs, their

stringy layers hanging off their limbs like a child’s

Band-Aid half picked off an arm or leg, undecided

about its ability to help heal the body’s dying flesh.

The understory broken by iron & fire like a rebellion.

Exotic grasses chewed down to their stubs by sheep

& cattle until even these conquerors were themselves

usurped by cereal crops & water-boarded cotton.

 

Hoofed animals who sacked the land’s fragile temple,

magnifying a historic benefit to the monocultural god.

Agriculture’s sublime gerrymander; the fascist knowhow

of combines & seed strains & harrows that clear-felled

the Brigalow belt. Soldier settlers of the 40s carrying on

the good fight to the Qld frontier, carving order out

of the dual forces of chaos; heat & drought. Trobuk

tanned, or Kokoda lithe, digging into their prickle farms

like a cattle tick into its host, head down, immovable.

Not the weather, not the banks, not the rising water

table that pulled salt skyward like a crystalline sunrise,

or the earthen heave of an underground atomic test.

Humans pushed the envelope of entropy: remnant

vegetation ensconced on Oakey Creek’s banks,

where wind & animal erosion dusted off eons

of silt from the fossilised skulls of diprotodons.

Fist-sized eye sockets stoppered with black mud.

 

Brigalow, now quarantined to rocky slopes like

the survivors of a flood catastrophe, or reduced

from its diverse wealth to begging beside highways.

North to Townsville, south to Narrabri, west to Bourke

& Blackall, the silvery-leafed acacias retreated meekly

into history’s hothouse. Their decline & fall predictable

as any overstretched empire’s, barbarians shutting

the gates on revegetation; reserves & hillsides

the last refuge of the disappeared. Ninety-five

percent of the black-trunked forest anchor-chained;

a billion victims of Bjelke-Petersen’s Frankenstein

invention, his iron umbilical bolt that connected

ex-war surplus gun carriers & enfiladed the land.

 

The Mallee’s murdered twin brother buried west

of the Great Dividing range & never seen again.

The countless bodies gone missing in the gidgee;

Darling Downs Hopping-mouse, White-footed

Rabbit-rat, Brush-tailed Bettong, Long-nosed

Bandicoot, Greater Bilby, Bridled Nailtail Wallaby,

Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat & Eastern Quoll.

These protein gradients dropping away without

a sound, as though they were regrowth suckers

poisoned by 24D. An extinct pastoral still being

energised as a red hot column whence fly the sparks.

Black wattle burning on a six million acre farm.

 

 

Great Barrier Reef

 

(i)

They say it’s the length of Japan, if that group

Of home islands was stretched out beside the

Queensland coastline; a great lung of Poseidon’s

Branching from the continent’s spine of white

Beach, exhaling microscopic spores into the sea’s

Vast cavity. Atlantean sunk beneath the Pacific

Ocean’s mythic blue abyss, the living tissue is

Larger than Cook’s England, as legendary as

Arthur’s Albion & as treacherous as Lyonesse.

After all, it conspired to hole the Endeavour.

 

(ii)

Along the brain-corrugated reef, light harpoons

Into water translucent & smooth as Murano glass.

Photons lobotomise; calm waters protect volcanic

Nibs of mountains we call islands. The reef is a

Front gate; white picket fence that keeps out sharks.

You can make out clam bunkers shut fast against

Riptides that blow subterranean wind in their faces.

Here, the wet metamorphosis of garden caterpillars;

Black & yellow striped nudibranchs, inch over polyps

That house migrants in their hundreds of thousands.

 

(iii)

It is the Hanging Gardens of Babylon ultramarine.

A billion generations have crowned its hard teeth

Before we came down from the trees. Here, time

Is measured in the millennia that green turtles have

Spent heaving their way up beaches to deposit their

Golf ball-sized capsules. Or how barnacles cling for

The length of the British Empire’s reign upon a rock.

Such perspectives diminish our enterprise; as bulk oil

Carriers slide carefully around the razor-edged reefs;

Like a sapper probing for mines in the Afghan sand.

 

(iv)

The rich organ now wears Asian funeral white. Its

Cancer the antithesis of black Western mourning.

The technicolour algae depart from their luxury posts

Like passengers on a stricken liner, leaving ghosts in

The shell. The sea is on a slow boil. The coral is dying

Its emphysemic death as parts of the great lung collapse.

It is falling into the shade of bleached whale bones as

Pieces of brain wash up on the beach; a tidal keepsake.

No need for a glass-bottomed boat to sail the future.

It is a scab on the ocean’s leg that is best left to heal.


 

Ellison Reef, Mission Beach

 

The colonies should be immortal & outlive us

but more than half of them are dead; victims

of crown of thorns thuggery, chiv-clad bullies

who creep up on their targets & shank them.

Their terrestrial enemy is deadlier; sugarcane

alchemists who’d love to transform limestone

into fertiliser, or suck up oil like a yabby pump

gulps wet sand. Sewerage pisses down gutters

of coastal towns & sediment runs from eroded

riverbanks clogging up the reef, like saltwater

up its nose; rainforest lies bent from the human

cyclone. In 1967 a funeral notice was published

in the coral-white paper. Spawn-words ejected

like typeset letters mating on the coast’s page.

 

 

Flat-headed catfish

 

The catfish doesn’t know

that it swims in muddy water.

That is our conceit, to try & match

its experience with ours & call its home a river.

We swim like a dead battery dumped

in a stream, our intelligence has corroded

our connection to the energy of things.

Our brains spit & fizzle under water

like aluminium thrown into a microwave.

To the mouth with fins, it may as well

be trawling over a vast liquid tongue;

for taste buds stud its body

like the beginnings of pustules

on a plague victim or gooseflesh

that erupts when the neck is licked.

Each pimple tastes the fast wet molecules

for chemical scents, for food that flows

into its wide rabbit-trap maw to be

swallowed whole, caught in the iron cage

of the fish’s gullet.

The flat-headed catfish is also a beardman.

It sports a double row, Guy Fawkes mo,

six barbels that curl at their pink tips

like a new fern.

These electrical-tipped appendages

seek enemies like Tasers & grope like hands

touching the river’s bed for information,

the same way boys will search out golf balls

sunk to the bottom of a water trap with their feet.

A lightning jaw blows up this parliament of mud.

Larger ones will shoot up a fisherman’s arm

like a long winter glove.

The catfish’s eyes though, are of no use.

They are black & dead as trench coat buttons

decaying in a field of sludge.

 

Although we try to pin it down

with human tropes, the catfish

is alien as liquid methane or a

planet where it rains glass. This fish

exists in its own universe.

 

 

Satin Bowerbird

 

He has a collector’s craze-addled eye for

finding beauty in junk. What others toss

away he’ll repurpose; consider it chic. With

a small blue flower in his mouth he croaks

& dances as though he’s a lawnmower that

doesn’t have quite enough choke, as his wings

punch up at 45 degrees like a sabre jet’s injector

seat, or the hip doors of a concept car. His call

is that of a WW1 shell shrieking in its final mad

descent. It should terrorize, but instead draws

onlookers, who watch him pick up a twig & plant

it in his wicker man bower like a national flag

on the moon. This is his jizz. To act all rebellious

teenager, but still keep a clean room.

 

 

Angstcination

for Nathan Shepherdson

 

(i)

from below

their white belly

merges with light,

falling electric snow.

penetration slowed

down; a fast bullet

enters & exits a pane

of glass falling with

honey’s spoon grace.

a snowflake melds

with its blizzard

until indivisible from

the surface it melts;

water’s countershade.

 

(ii)

all quiet under ocean.

sound trapped, insect

in amber. ears useless,

ground down tiny over

millennia, gills not slitting

into bones until a noise’s

speed no longer makes

distance in the blue world.

salt water is not ocean

as is tasted. a fluid

battery sends electrical

pulses. charges fish

until solar panel scales

spark with energy.

 

(iii)

they can detect auras.

smell the diffused signals

borne by water molecules

that spread, a tarot deck

of hunger sliding across

the sea’s dinner table;

conjure up a red future.

one drop of blood

in a million parts of

water, they will come

if the wet wind blows

in the right direction.

they can find a clear

contact lens on a glacier.

 

(iv)

their snouts are Franklin’s

perpetual kite experiment.

blows from a cobbler’s

hammer have dented

their heads, they hunt

by electricity, they detect

tiny ball lightning in

a fishes’ berry-sized

muscles. the ocean

a liquefied grid, a

field of nippy particles.

lorenzini’s ampullae;

an apex predator’s

lightning rod.

 

(v)

industrial strength

candle-coloured bags,

thin bakelite purses

that clutch to the sides

of reefs & shoals; amber

necklaces that decorate

a current’s sinewy neck.

membranous births,

embryonic fluid ruptures

spills into a greater sac.

longlines’ jagged teeth

hook young, a by-catch.

fin’s reverse fontanelle,

the flesh doesn’t heal.

 

(vi)

times past skin wore teeth

& dorsal fins radar shaped.

devolution; toothed frames

shrink to denticles that spray

on skin, rough plaster walls

disrupt borders between shark

& ocean. they grasp seawater

glove-fast & torpedo bodies

slip through tension breaks.

blademasters skills honed

by sticky shark grips & fine

cut leather boots. ‘shagreen’

sandpaper from dog-fish

polished ships’ best wood.

 

(vii)

bicycle reflector jammed behind

retina boosts night vision. military

goggles worn by elite frogmen see

colour at depths where none exists.

ten times light collects on apertures;

pollen clings to a bee’s leg. ghosts

rise from midnight zone’s dusky

graveyard. sharks descend coffin

straight; spiracles pump salty water

direct injection into eyes & brain.

oxygen thins in reverse atmosphere.

black space weightlessness, bodies

equalised with gravity share joint

stuff. five gill slits blow curtains.

 

(viii)

lateral lines sweep seas;

mine detectors beep

when objects grow denser.

surfboard seal cut-outs

mimic flippers & fibreglass

duende. submerge, caudal fins

flex, a giant’s fist pump &

cartilage tuning forks vibrate

through shafts as taste buds

tricked. first bite for info.

next bite for keeps. jaws

realise mistakes, head bang

& tear at war music. third

eyelid shuts in mute defence.

 

(ix)

abundant blood, dining

room prey, erratic finger

movement wags in their face

during pelagic mealtime.

they take it personally &

mouth opens in warning.

cave stalactites’ cusps, sharp,

pointed; muscles rise to

the threat & predators

face off, frenzied speech

no participant remembers.

brains overload on slight.

flesh liquefaction, then

whirlwind unwinds its passion.

 

(x)

the roof goes. convertible

fins sheared, corrugated sheds

in cyclone. farmer marked,

long queues slide into salty dip,

tails fall into bloody bucket.

a torp’s dead weight when

engines stall. steerage gone,

sleek fuselage dips, downed

sydney minisubs & pacific

planes sink into an abyss.

production lines hook a

dark future; their broods

human length; kursk sailors

clench rusted wrenches.

 

(xi)

forty somethings’ fear

spawned seventies celluloid

gore fantasies. knee-high,

parents don’t swim further,

their children human shields

for angstcination. in breakers,

still water, unlucky death roils.

spearfisher, snorkeler, sponge

-diver, pearl-grabber, surfer-dude,

bather. tire-tread scars run over

backs, sand depressions don’t

blow away. nets & baited hooks

map annually the kill count war.

one hundred million jaws close.

 

 

Counter-Pastoral at 140kph

 

Moree

The Nankeen kestrel’s wings fold upwards like a

space-conscious clothesline, or a russet umbrella

that surrenders to the westerlies, as it falls onto

the marsupial mouse’s light-weight chassis. The

raptor’s talons blur like a highway mirage & sink

into the paddock’s earth, rending flesh & dirt; an

excavator’s claw that overcorrects on a worksite.

White wheat stubble could be a field of low mist,

but there’s no moisture in a drought-blonde winter.

The Brigalow says The Lord is Near in stencilled letters.

The burnt wreck of a commodore is nearer, at a rest

area just short of Moree. Meteorite-coloured, a legend

would have the bird of prey brush its rusting hulk.

Fire-unique; this oxygen-rich planet is out to kill.

 

Dubbo

The young white rhino tests its Pliocene

strength against the slope of its mother’s

granite-boulder neck. They are grey lichen

on the evolutionary spur. Long in the horn,

somehow the large beasts survived our Rift

Valley outpouring, the rivulets of flesh-lava

which burnt jungle into blocks of savannah.

Now, the silver-flecked Venetian masks of

Apostlebirds, chatter underfoot, as they sift

through the African mammals’ straw; they

are rock solid. Theirs is the larger test. The

long, species ice-age melts in a poacher’s

microscopic breath. Colour of moon regolith,

the struggle ends in one animal’s dusty retreat.

 

Waikerie

The broken cliffs bare their fossilised teeth.

An ancient ocean bed dried out, time’s rehab.

Sand particles caught in a molecule snapshot

fused into something stronger with the texture

of a raptor’s bone-encrusted scat. Seashells,

brachiopods, the shallow sea denizens stick out

of the sandstone butte, rows of canines where

locals cut themselves. Way too much fun in Waikerie.

The enduro drivers party until 2am on the bitumen

carpark’s floor. Shirts off, they confront the danger

as one school. Their violence won’t be remembered,

only their form. Beer cartons lopsided as a continental

fault line & wine glass fragmented as mussel shell.

The sound of tyres on wet sand like breakers crashing.

 

Broken Hill

The wild hops will live out their natural lives.

The hoarhound waits patiently for its next bender.

Nightshade misses the pupil’s full moon dilation.

Obsolescent belladonna slips into a vegetative

fossil state; history is foretold by the weeds left

behind. Salvation Jane is someone’s Patterson’s Curse.

Little men brought these seeds to the saltbush plains,

chasing the silver lodestar that pierced the ridge’s

thumb like a splinter. When the veins ran dry

they drowned in their own blood sitting upright;

they were stone age those Cornish, myah myahs

were pre-fab burial mounds with wattle & daub lids.

We only ever get to see ten percent of the mind’s

workings; the earth remembers every ounce.

 

Mildura

It took two years for the world’s largest crude

oil tractor to shunt its way into the Mallee scrub,

moving at lava’s cooling black pace; its wheels

shod with broad iron snowshoes so it wouldn’t

sink under its own dinosaur weight. Forty football

fields a day were scythed down for the soldier

settlements around Red Cliffs, by four steel cables

thick as a man’s wrist that bled out from the machine’s

head like the lacquered plaits of a giantess. Hooks

grappled stumps as the metal wire shaved Malleefowls’

heaped mounds neatly, like cream skimmed off raw

milk by hand. ‘Big Lizzie’ was gutted too; her engine

bastardised into a rock crusher’s belly when she

outlived her destructiveness. The birds just withdrew.

 

Silverton

The stone hamlet hangs by a celluloid thread.

Thirty-five monochrome ghosts are all that are left

of Silverton’s rush; commons bound to their land,

the ethereal tape of local government has frayed

like old wedding lace under the sun. The freemasons

are gone; their superhero costumes adorn frozen

manikins, their powers restrained behind a glass

force-field. There are deeper powers at work here.

Horses share the bar with people, the Greek myths

are close to the surface like an ore-rich lode. The

Mad Max kitsch is rusting. The Feral Kid is a jeweller

in Sydney. The village is a touched up photo – one

of Stalin’s best. Buildings & citizens have been edited

out of the present. Low entropy is sterile as a film lab.

 

Lake Menindee

The speed of colour is a new parrot species

spied for two seconds out the car window,

but then diminishes like an escaped balloon

from a child’s hand. Without a good look at

its jizz, the little nuances in beak & cere, it goes

unchecked on the life list. Or a grey grasswren

that blurs across the sedan’s bonnet, escaping

death like a stalled vehicle’s engine that sparks

into riotous life on a level crossing. Or the tan

checkerboard of a square-tailed kite’s breast,

lost in the overexposure of its bullish cousins.

Or the strange pied bird that doesn’t fly in dips

like a black honeyeater, but Stuka plummets into

the saltbush & belah; the desert’s pace is red.

 

Cobar

The earth is crowned with a space-junk diadem.

Every so often, a pearl-bright satellite breaks

from the cluster & falls, shining like a seam

of silver ore in night’s mine. The atmosphere’s

a forge that heats up the super-adventurous alloy.

The planet raises an eyebrow as gravity grabs

the pliable body by its throat. Meteorites

curve downward like a cocktail dress that slips

to the bedroom floor. A sonic boom is speed’s

audible orgasm as pressure waves build then collapse.

Everyone watches the video that night, as dishes

mushroom in the dark farm of the trailer park.

No celestial union is secret anymore, no husbandry

is safe, as the town bathes in this fiery afterglow.

 

Wilcannia

Ravens judge the distance between oncoming

traffic & road kill with advanced avian math.

Wing & beak calculate lift as the corvids hopscotch

out of death’s way with a child’s grace. The mulga

bears shoe-fruit, every eviscerated roo is UFO evidence;

a hills hoist in the middle of nowhere is a jerry-rigged

emergency beacon. Feral goats are the only witnesses

to close encounters. Bible-old, they instinctively move

to higher ground when objects threaten to pull over.

In Wilcannia everything is locked down, bar children

who play chicken with Winnebagos on the A32,

cutting the national artery’s living tissue. They catch

rides on a campervan’s spare wheel; scooters political.

Horns scatter sparrows; not kids of the third kind.

 

Brewarrina

The fish traps make Jericho’s pale walls seem

freshly rendered. Two thousand generations

of hands have whispered the stones into river

crop circles. Aliens marvel on the Darling’s banks

at the persistence of mythical endeavour. Sisyphus’s

labour personified in the rock pools sunken at odd

levels to catch flood-prone yellow belly, whatever

the river’s mood. Children crouch & play imaginary

games on the oldest human invention. White-necked

herons patrol the weir’s battlement. The blocked off

Barwon is a springe, as pelicans scoop up fingerlings

in their bills’ pink windsocks. Brewarrina’s shops are

dammed with plywood. Time keeps a tight budget.

Fish were a currency once, scales glinting like coins.

 

Walgett

It’s an impasse. A cultural stalemate.

The highway’s gutters littered with empties;

an artillery barrage’s spent shell cases or

a no man’s land where glassy-eyed bodies

lie tossed by death’s drunken rage. Liquid

pride is a distant mirage that dries before

you can ever reach it; some Min Min light

that keeps exact pace with your car. Shire

Councils too poor, too bothered by water

politics. A seventy-five kilometre roadside

installation, authentic outback experience.

It’s all your perspective. Not rubbish, but

in a hundred years, part of an antique bottle

display in an octogenarian’s dim fibro-cave.

 

Lightning Ridge

There’s an invisible margin between a mine

& a tomb. They drill into the earth’s giant

bone to extract bluish-green & blood-red

marrow, existence’s wet & succulent sheen.

Chalk-white middens dot a moon landscape.

There is terraforming; notes from the underground

as jackhammers vibrate with a tuning fork’s rage.

They carve out oubliettes to imprison dreams.

Practice for a lunar existence; first they live in

the ships that brought them here from distant

worlds, then they return to Cro-Magnon fears,

living in craters to keep warm. They follow

ossified water that eons ago took on a new form.

When the seam runs out, the habit stays strong.

 

 

Scarlet-Shouldered Parrot

 

Extinction is a kind of bizarre stocktake.

Units low in number are not reordered,

but with doomsday quickness hoarders

buy up, until the very last items sell out.

Every species has its shelf life. The bird’s

use by date was 1927; it has been expired

for eighty-seven years, a rotten end to a

popular product. Collectors kept the empty

bottles, stuffed them with sawdust & tied

them all up like sticks of dynamite rigged

to a rail bridge. Taxidermy is a 3D photo

of the dead. They’ll perch for eternity; wear

beads for eyes, medal ribbon on their chest

& on their shoulder, a scarlet epaulette.

 

 

Soldier Parrots

 

Science lessons spied on them for eighty years

without actually seeing them. Classes of short-

lived students studied biology under immoveable

beaks. Sixteen birds in a square Victorian case;

walled up behind old-style glass, globed with air

pockets like insects trapped in an amber dome.

The vanguard of the forces of mass extinction;

a light cavalry brigade’s reckless charge against

a Russian position, or captured weapons laid

at a dead King’s feet. Twelve are common as

disciples. Four are holy relics of biodiversity’s

religious heights. Two breeding pairs, bonded

to the box’s midriff on branches of tied green

wire. An ornithological trellis, where gentry

adorned their curious wealth, or a Christmas tree

decorated with baubles of gaudy parrot-life.

A steampunk trophy when taxidermy was popular

as scrapbooking, the birds eternity persevered

in real-life poses. Snap-frozen by a romantic age

that hastened an island feathered apocalypse.

The graziers knew them as Soldier parrots, these

war veterans who took in their military jizz,

perched atop dozers that snapped off Brigalow

at the ankles. Sentries stood to attention on termite

mounds guarding eggs mined into ant nest hearts.

They mimicked parade ground drills, chests out, they

puffed & swaggered their way into oblivion. Farmers

were bullies – kids kicking over sandcastles, not

realising their strength hurt others. Palaeontologists

guffaw; 99.9% of all known species have gone dead.

 

 

Yakka Skink

Egernia rugose

 

There is a giant burrow that is bottomless,

a pit that will warm a billion creatures if dug

for a hundred years. You are stretching the limits

of your species, we can take the extra heat; but

you lack one hundred million seasons. Our form

outdates yours. We have the experience of hotter

times, you have earned nothing. The dark brown

stripe down our back is a landing strip at dusk.

Diamond shaped scales hide our ears, but you

are deaf to the world’s moan. You have not heard

the wind through box trees, the squarish leaves

scratching at the air like claws in sand. Or breeze

pooling through a warren like sighs lost from a

throat. We live in your tiny mines that went broke.

 

 

Ornamental Snake

Denisonia maculata

 

They have carved up the Brigalow forest, etched

out strange designs in the dark leather of its belt.

We sense in the burnt bottom of the pan; gidgee

scrub encircled by roads, railways & stock routes

that pick off mobs of trees like a shooter’s quota

of roos. At night, giant mines blend with the sky

into one wide, black ocean. We emerge in the cool

as the young frogs bubble up from groundwater;

toads we bite, turn the armoured hulks into sacks

of fluid, but the froglets hop into our jaws & rest.

We taste your red. Your engines radiate in waves

of heat, but our fangs do not hurt them. So we hide

by day in the tunnels of deep soil cracks, under the

tip trays of fallen logs. We slither out of your holes.

 

 

Maureen Cooper’s Quilt (Bimblebox Nature Reserve)

 

The coal temple’s curtain has been ripped asunder.

A deposit the size of Germany lies dormant, a fallow

dragon that on awakening will fire up its hot breath,

its stench wilting barbed wire grass like an incendiary

bomb melting the stalks of men’s eyes on the Western

front. Embroidered birds & marsupials are a truce flag.

A royal sigil, as if the nature reserve had a divine right

to exist. A pennant that signals either advance or retreat.

A blanket to wrap the wounded in, a hoisted sail that

catches the nearest drift, if favourable winds pick up.

In Mackay the quilt is taken down like a crushed enemy’s

insignia; a toppled golden eagle in a black & white film.

Machines dig, machines stitch too; humans appliqué

tininess to the bigger picture. The future wins a raffle.

 

 

Southern Boobook Owls

 

His book book cry was so close it could

have pealed inside our kitchen; as if some

poltergeist had tapped twice beside our ears

on an enamel mug, or a doomed sailor struck

his wrench on a bulkhead. Torch-lit, I bungled

the kids onto the back lawn, where we shone

our dull yellow beams up into the fig tree’s

submarine darkness, first picking out the male,

then a metre along the branch, his female lead.

He repeated his deep notes, a lusty bugler whose

clarion call was greeted with a growl of approval.

He moved then at the speed of night, the flurry

of wings more a scuffle, than a feathered union.

Extinguished, the owls fled from our light.

 

 

Night Parrots

 

The ecologist’s hands seal firmly like an elevator’s doors

as he grips the night parrot in his fleshy clamp. His fingers,

twigs woven into a brown screen, a tight spinifex bunch

where the bird is insubstantial as trying to hold water.

Two of his digits form a tiny ox collar as they ring

the bird’s cotton ball head, another grips its belly

like a weight belt. For a hundred years the parrot has

drained out between extinction’s fist, an unstoppable

slow leak. He clutches it gingerly, a live grenade, or

how a fast bowler splits a cricket ball’s seam, the leather

of the bird’s claws resting lightly on his fingertips.

Sport for poachers, its location is another lost body

in the desert. He fixes a tracking device. For twenty-

one hours the satellite beeps in desert’s space.

 

 

Guadalcanal

 

(i)

Neat as an Olympic diver, the moustached kingfisher

splits the brackish water, feathers luminescent tracer.

 

Akira watches the bird resurface, a fingerling in

its beak, long & silver as a newly crafted sword.

 

On a branch overhanging the creek, it is devoured

in two quick moves like a rifle bolt being cocked.

 

The bird scrapes both sides of its bill on tree bark;

a soldier cleaning his bayonet on a bit of canvas.

 

His splash is small too. Like Mbarikuku, he is holed

up in the mountains, forced ever upwards by the jungle

 

& the Americans who swarm over the island, killing,

overrunning Henderson airfield like an invasive species.

 

Akira digs in, an endangered species, conceals

his pillbox to look like a fallen tree trunk or nest.

 

(ii)

The Corsairs make matchwood out of his gun pit.

He alone survives the bombardment. There is no

 

fire. The rainforest smothers any flame with its wet

blanket. Bones split like the trunks of downed canopy

 

giants that have collapsed under their dead weight.

Greasy sunlight patterns over him like camouflage.

 

Akira cannot hear the kingfisher’s call. His god

is ringing a Shinto bell in his head. It rains.

 

Purple berries rest by shell casings.

The bird’s perch is a charred hand.

 

The only blue streak he sees

is the red dawn surrendering to day.

 

The marines are coming for him.

Akira lets the leeches drink their fill.

 

(iii)

At two thousand feet above sea level

the zoologist stumbles over a mystery.

 

He estimates that it is coffin deep,

tooled by human hands. At the bottom

 

are bits of rusting metal brittle as feather

bones. The trench is a good observation

 

post to look for the bird. On a stump

overhanging a creek, he spies a male

 

preening his molten medal head,

blue wings like a Pacific island ad.

 

The kingfisher has telescopic sight,

but the mist net floats like gun smoke.

 

He thinks of DDT & thin eggshells as

he hears; ko-ko-ko-kokokokokokokoko-kiew.

 

 

Chinchilla

For George Bender

 

(i)

You will only ever own the top six inches,

if you can call it ownership; to some it’s more

a stewardship, a steering of all the elements that

you need to get right; the weather, enough rain

to plant or grow grass for cattle, bores that won’t

run dry when the season does, firebreaks that will

halt a bushfire like a brick under a wheel, soil that

is rotated to perfection, salinity that can take its time

choking a paddock with its briny hands. Silage pits

that double as emergency funds, molasses and straw

mass graves that keep underground for years

like an inverse cicada, waiting for the poorest

conditions, drought-death, to be reborn as feed.

Mice and locusts that plague the rare fat seasons.

 

(ii)

Chinchilla gets the geographical kudos, but this is

more Wandoan, a little more north, a little less known.

A sacred six inches, something knife-blade deep that

barricades a grazier’s mind into a Eureka Stockade

of bullish resistance. Six inches that make a farmer

refuse to leave the land and die there; than break

like a joint in a rock along the thin sandstone coast.

The earth is a tenement block; you own the top unit,

the government rents out the flats beneath. Bad risks,

they destroy the furniture, put holes in plaster walls,

and leave in the middle of the night. They even strip

out copper wire, such is their addiction. Leftovers by

the bin swell and stink like cattle carcasses in a dam.

You can light the kitchen water up like an oxy torch.

 

 

Magpies

 

The magpie parents introduce their fledgling to us,

an ash-grey fuzz, their blood-curdling calls keener;

the snicker-snacker of their bills scraping the fence

like a blade sliding home in its wooden scabbard.

Our backyard is a safe house; no dogs, only a timid cat

that the corvids push out of the way to its food dish.

The juvenile just flies in short bursts, its tail feathers

stubby, half-formed, making it a manx of its species.

Our son watches it perched on the metal cricket stumps,

where its relatives have left it, to go get something to eat.

Six whiskers are sewn into the base of its beak, fine

as the black thread a doctor uses to stitch wounds.

There is only an empty clothesline between the two

children. The most powerful pull of spring is trust.

 

 

A Scrub

 

a scrub

of millennial

light a great

photon fist

hammered leaves

into a point

evolution’s forge

eon folded

on time’s anvil

a scrub

of cells

that beat

pink growth

into shape

dry adaptive

camel storage

forge summers

a scrub

of chrysoprase

green pendants

semi-precious

solar panels

first renewable

source kukri-

shaped energy

knives known

for tenacity

a scrub

of signposts

that all pointed

one direction

deep within

the ground

roots nuzzled

soil blind

marsupial moles

that felt

their way

through darkness

hoovered up

rare moisture

like earth

magic through

tiny membranes

thinner than

a cornea

a capillary

a thought

in a thunderhead

green rigging

in a black

dirt sky

that powered

craft through

season’s squalls

a scrub

of frog

skin vascular

hair thin

cracks that

bounced sugars

back to

stem, trunk,

root, leaf tip

a scrub

of mad

atoms, quanta

of energy

combusting

small furnaces

plant fission

chlorophyll factories

of microscopic

gods that

fired up

new foliage

miracles the

planet one

giant protein

gradient

an old

drying continent

burning regimes

lighting prejudice

ancient rituals

song lines

like lit fuses

feeding acacias

thinning rainforest

brigalow belt

flowers blooming

a scrub

of fairy-tale

brambles

that blocked

thunderstorms

protected chicks

pups, fingerlings

a scrub

of green

parchment scribbled

with life’s ink

six million

pages long

a scrub

of leaves as

largest organ

tree’s scale

mail armour

to withstand

sun’s assault

drought’s campaign

salinity’s total

war acacia

hands that

cupped light

and drank it

down before

it drained

away into night

a child’s tongue

ice block green

that stuck

out to

catch rain

water filaments

a Bogong

moth’s needle

proboscis

jabbing nectar

a scrub

that sutured

topsoil sewn

up cracks

split like lips

in dry summer’s

rodeo arena

dust secured

like straw bails

under tarpaulin

anchor roots

that becalmed

creek beds

bedecked hills

healed a wounded

earth westerly

currents tamed

by a many

-coloured

leaf land

 

a scrub

of beginnings

and endings

of first peoples

of ceremonies

pushed out

of explorers

who rode out

found ways

through mountain

chains mapping

dying to

get it right

of squatters

and stealing

of fences

and theft

of guns

and ironmongery

of horses, oxen

hoofed animals

that compacted

the ground

of poison and

flour of

blankets and

bully beef

of god’s disease

spread like

an infection

a scrub

of massacre

of hunting

parrot pies

and bunya

nuts that

no longer

were collected

of corroborees

kicked over

of soldier settlers

who returned

battered and

broken like

the land

they pensioned

of council

bounties to

clear scrub

of timber

getters and

bullock teams

of woollen

white gold

southern cross

starry shepherds

who traced

orange comets

like prophecy

the legends

of constellations

that changed

spiritual hands

a scrub

of Gatton

murders

of waltzing

matildas

of troopers

and tramps

of poverty

of poetry

that immortalised

the ‘Bush’

myth and saws

that killed it

of min min

lights that

kept an

even pace

with progress

 

a scrub

of night’s

burning smell

of bulldozers

harnessed like

oxen with

chains snapping

tree trunks

like dry twigs

a scrub

of monoculture

of exotic plants

that rose

from charred

acacia stumps

like union jacks

coveting land

of smouldering

heat trunks

and roots

piled up

like bodies

mass pyres

burning times

a scrub

of fertiliser

rich soil

phosphates

that super

charged yields

and escaped

garden plants

lantana, cactus

prickly pear

forests that

choked pasture

strangled sheep

crowns of

thorns subdued

by axe, fire

and grub

a scrub

of cotton

empires and

mega dams

water disputes

downstream

of drowned

toddlers

a scrub

of pesticide

spills of

creek runoff

fish dieback

blue-green

alga blooms

that stifled

oxygen cells

smothered gills

rancid billabongs

DDT, 245T,

acronyms that

killed wildlife

sickened livestock

tainted meat

poisoned humans

then banned

and sold into

petrochemical

slavery in

Africa, Asia,

South America

where corporate

corruption

companion grew.

 

a scrub

of fossil fuels

government licenses

that own

everything under

six inches

of ground

of disappeared

tidy towns

open cut

coal mines

economic

sinkholes

that appeared

without warning

subsumed roses

tennis courts

water tanks

dance halls

local pubs

war memorials

a last post

of diggers

their giant

trenches shell

holes blasted

by companies

habitat caught

shrapnel rain

shredded landscape

skeleton trees

Somme shadows

left no trace

of townsfolk

of Acland

a scrub

of extraction

Mt Morgan

blowouts

once in

a century

floods that

leached mutagen

mercury tailings

into rivers

into food chains

into animals

into plants

into humans

of black-throated

finches garrotted

by greed

Bimblebox broken

promises political

donations sap

of weak government

resource gerrymander

Galilee basin

a coal

seabed

of ex-nitrogen

titans Jack

and the

Bean Stalk

giants that

grew over

millennia

died over

millennia

were crushed

by earth’s fist

over millennia

fused into

combustible peat

carboniferous riches

councils that

paid off

pollies spent

billions future

investment

that became

a bad debt

for farmers

for climate change

for brigalow

 

a scrub

of extinction

of hopping mice

Notomys mordax

toothpick bones

feathery tails

dusted tracks

left by

oversized paws

in freezer

cool caverns

underground

a scrub

of subterranean

lives lived out

hot summers

dug out

beneath acacia

a thousand

scratchings

a scrub

of stringy roots

a warren’s

doorframe

brown fur

families huddled

through frost

winter’s bared

teeth that

sank into

pink infants

or daylight

caught out

by the sun’s

glaring spotlight

sun’s iron lung

a scrub

of few survivors

of midnight

raids black

bagged by

fell shadows

a scrub

of death

from above

sinker-sized

hairballs

that kestrels

and black-

shouldered kites

coughed up

a hard rain

that fell

from branches

a white

hail of

death history

a scrub

of a single

skull found like

some perverse

cut diamond

or Arkenstone

a scrub

of fantasy lives

kept behind

museum glass

an exhibit

of dubious

quality

a scrub

of introduced

pests that

snaffled up

dishes rats

cats and foxes

that excavated

cool tunnels

collapsed walls

fleet futures

a scrub

of red eye

predator stares

into oubliette

total darkness

a scrub

of tiny

death squeals

that no

human heard

after acacia

hair was

pulled out

by the roots

from the

darling downs

head

a scrub

of fishhook

light bones

mingled with

roo pellets

of strange

tektites from

iron rich

outer asteroid

rocky belts

a scrub

of black dung

beetle carcasses

shields left

on a battlefield

black fingernails

when hammers

mistimed strokes

a scrub

of snake eyes

of scales rustling

over dead grass

of eye blink

fast strikes

of venom’s tea

numb bodies

scoffed like cakes

a children’s

hollow legged

hunger

a black

sugar cube

ball of death

 

a scrub

of parrots

from paradise

that hollowed

out termite nests

drilled holes

core samples

to steal

controlled insect

air-con

pyramid power

a humidicrib

for pale eggs

protection from

drought, rain’s

strike for better

conditions

a scrub

of soldier birds

that guarded

mini mountains

black-shouldered

epaulettes on

turquoise capes

a scrub

of social

tennis that

demoted them

to a lowly rank

a torture rack

that cracked

open countless

carbon storage

facilities like

filing down

horse teeth

a scrub

of pretty pollys

exotic aviary

that Victorians

immortalised

in glass

time capsules

Gilbert gunshot

at Millmerran

at Jondaryan

woolshed

at Jimbour House

pellet nailed

to Royal Society

walls taxidermied

circus spectacle

the bead eyes

never blink

a lidless death

colour rises

on cheeks

human, avian

as feathers fade

a scrub

of empty nests

broken eggshell

weathered field

notes scarred

dig trees

a scrub

of hollow

white bones

 

a scrub

of lesser bilbies

minor beings

that died

before notes

could be taken

again only

known from

a single skull

trophied from

the bottom

of a wedgetail’s

bristling pike nest

bone currency

scientific lodestone

pointed to

species endgame

lord of the flies

head stick

bloody worship

the beast

of extinction

beating out

life with rocks

Viennese masks

long noses

long ears

long tails

short lives

a scrub

of empty

sand burrows

an Easter

resurrection

as chocolate

confectionary

 

a scrub

of chains

of being

that implanted

new hierarchies

of resources

and easy fuel

a scrub

of shackles

that swept

over the

flat land

making it

flatter still

a scrub

of millions

of hectares

broken and

burnt out

on top

now undermined

from below

a firestorm

that raged

like a centuries’

old coal fire

that kept

burning burning

deep underground

fuelled by

gas and

old pressures

a scrub

of junkies

injecting needles

into alluvial

skin new

monoculture

of extraction

tapping nature’s

arteries like

rubber milked

from lacerated

plantation trees

a scrub

of poisonous

fumes a

chimera that

bubbled up

from bores

an artesian

gob stink

that miner’s

smelt before

methane death

a scrub

of fuel

air bombs

that detonated

out of

kitchen taps

shower heads

scorched wives

and children

a scrub

of pressure

loss that

made mirages

out of

ground water

bores

a scrub

of tailings

dams that

always burst

that seep

into rivers

killing proteins

a scrub

of drilling

rigs and

hard hats

fifo tourists

split families

a scrub

of towns

that grew

like boils

landlords full

of pus

greed that

squeezed the

ripe head

pressure below

pressure above

a scrub

of boom

bust cycles

that just bust

a scrub

of beer

money face

value rent

paid to locals

for access

for new roads

that bought

nothing but

more anguish

to a stressed

landscape

a scrub

of well-heads

that glistened

like mirrors

of stainless

steel grids

of boilers

and blow outs

of pumped

chemicals and

piped sand

fast fracking

coal sediments

to release

a gas genie

a scrub

of locked gates

and short

term gains

of fractures

and unsellable

cattle of

contaminated dreams

of rivers where

water burns

like a napalmed

village well

of captured

gas that ignited

the landscape

of coercion

and bullying

of mental

disintegration

of suicidal

pressures

the twin

barrels of

a loaded

shotgun

in the mouth’s

wet cave

 

a scrub

that goes

boom!

 

 

At Play with Grey-Crowned Babblers

 

The grey-crowned babblers pry secrets from the trees.

Their scimitar beaks carve grooves in the scaly bark’s

trunk, like finger holes in a wooden instrument. They

tap out a note & listen as white grubs vibrate in their

dark cases. The crescendo is a larvae drawn out of its

wings to raucous applause. Nature has thought it best

not to make them empty nesters; keeping the kids close

to home rather than cutting them free, cooperation is

survival’s tenor. Around the Titan shed, the eight birds

play follow the leader, chasing the maggot that squirms

in a parent’s bill. It is a jovial community, one that you

could be lost in; but you dare not look or turn around,

for fear your movement will end it. The chirrups that

crawl up your back & infest your head like happiness.


 

Brown Booby

 

For the Brown Booby, wind is solid as ground.

Fast air molecules hold them in place; an invisible

plinth rewards the seabirds with an advantageous

vista of high tide. They are juvenile delinquents

testing gravity’s authority. They want to steal.

These hunters are sailors’ souls cruising Urangan’s

wooden pier, coveting the bream that bend light

like lipstick mirrors of a morning. The shorebirds

wear a yellow gloss around their bills. Undersides

are mottled cream & brown like a light fixture

where moths have died & form a shadowy base.

One folds its wings back like an umbrella closing

& punctures the sea in a neat dive. They conquer

the ocean too; scaling this liquid mountain.


 

The Hunted

 

When old age bends them in half like

a weightlifter who fails in their final snatch, or

when a premature road accident renders them

some cyberpunk kudos, they’ll return to their

cruel sea of pixels; they’ll remember how life

struggled under their grip, when even severed

in half the dying power to stay alive, the bunch

& spring of mutilated muscles, prevailed over

their weak utility god. Their wide arms of victory

will become another lonely appeal, a tiny gesture

when compared to five hundred million years

of evolution’s own drunken game of hit & run.

The time will come when they will be the hunted,

not hunters, but prey to the greatest medium.

 

 

Pilliga

 

The grey & white feral tomcat was lynx-sized,

as it strolled along the sandy road’s graded edge

with an apex predator’s swagger. Our car didn’t

disturb it from its loose tracking. It sauntered off

after a while, into the cypress pine’s & she-oak’s

green needles like those tales of mysterious black

panthers in Wales or on the English moors – zoo

released when their overlords fell into debtor’s jail.

It was just a glimpse, but the creature’s casualness

unnerved us, its huge furred chest, beyond anything

of its domestic cousin; its appetite for killing native

animals; its smugness in being a new expansion in

these million wild acres. Its arrogance in extracting

the last resources out of this delicate, dry landscape.

 

 

Carboniferous

 

The humus was thick as a featherbed. Three

metre long millipedes hid beneath the brown

fibrous sheets, sensing the rich earth shift, in

its eternal revolutions, in the millions of years

it took for the giant roots to grab a purchase

around rocks & bear their trees to the fir green

aurora, beanstalk high. The only era they ruled

in size our insects; arthropods that could detect

the softest scrape of a spider with the mass of

a human head. All there was to do was grow.

Fifteen percent more nitrogen was rocket fuel

for life; an explosion of gargantuans, fallen logs

had the diameter of tunnel mouths, dragonflies

flew with an eagle’s dominance. Fateful then,

how their terrible growth would one day fuel

our own enlargement & the planet’s end.


 

Lord Howe Island Phasmid, Land Lobster

Dryococelus australis

 

We fled from terror. Black rats migrated onto

Lord Howe from shipwrecks & we fed their

ravaging colonial instincts. Without contradiction

there can be no life, so a thicket of us hitched

a ride on driftwood & by the mercy of the moon

we managed to find landfall; refugees who had

turned themselves into sticks. This sheer peak

was almost barren, but for a scraggly melaleuca

shrub which had like us, held the gate against

the fittest surviving. We were rescued again;

years later, still a small outpost on the edge of

civilisation, our shit led you to us. Surely our

near miss is a cautionary tale? Don’t you see?

There’s no captive breeding program for you.

 

 

Grindle Road

 

A bull bar is a ute’s clenched fist. There

is no prestige left in its silver colour. There

is no classic style to death. The killing floor

was outside, late at night between the men’s

& women’s prisons. He could imagine the

inmates asleep in their cots, whimpering as

he drove off the road & into the grassy gutter

blasting into the radiant mob like a steel bolt

into a cow’s forehead. The force felt inside

the cab was equivalent to smacking a face.

The high humidity suspended particles of

roo, clotting night’s air with smell of fresh

blood, like a stained tinted window. Death

was not instant. Seventeen times he floored it.

 

 

Selfie with Dolphin

 

Their fingers were polyps that caressed its flanks

as it floated over humanity’s reef. Or the dabbing

of its mother’s nose against its streamlined beak when

first air was breached. There was no mixed sonar signal

that bounced back & said there was deep water ahead.

This wasn’t a beaching; a photo op. Selfie with dolphin.

Water retracted from its fat like the low tide going out.

It’s a mammal that breathes air was the collective stoush.

It was passed around like a wineskin. As everybody wet

their lips, hands reached out as if a saint was passing.

They who discovered it dead; their faces sunk like Jesus’

up on the Cross. The tourist who’d carried it the most

put it back in the waves, as if the sea could resurrect it.

It lives now in news feeds; its pixel cells never drying out.


 

Bee Fleeting

 

the pain has remained constant

when everything else has diminished

 

honey mailboxes sat out in wooded paddocks

little stuccoed apartments or mental institutions

 

where crazy dancing was welcomed

 

men in white suits & fencing facemask mesh

carried lamps that spewed out smoky magic

 

visible grey carbon cast spells of calmness on

legions of erratic antennae. insect dopamine

 

receptors blocked by the elemental drug

 

dying bees watched by tomorrow’s scientists

grounded flight crew crawled in undignified gait

 

the opposite imagined for us; soul if it exists

whisked up into the air, a fart released from

 

a yellowed body mimicking a bee’s end

 

they are absconding from the planet’s giant hive

one day the lazy buzz in the tops of eucalypts will

 

only be heard on recordings; children will imitate

their noise like they do for dinosaurs, not really

 

knowing what made that sound, sound so real

 

the bee yards are going the way of their ship cousins

numbers are down, no more virgin queens are ready

 

for the role of royal abdomens elongated as the English

coast. a province the insect empire loses to barbarity

 

the workers have closed in & are balling her

 

the afterswarm of onlookers at the playground

where a bee sting choked the life out of some poor

 

kid. there was always one story of this happening

growing up. we saw more dead bees than children

 

they are as gifted & as dangerous as cells.

 

a beard of humanity hangs from the earth’s

face; the hive is heating up. there is a dearth

 

of sweet stuff, so robbing frenzies wrack

the third world, steal all their honey stores;

 

weren’t we all africanised before

 

if there is brood in us we will not leave

native bees outnumber them but do not sting

 

fly-size & black, they were here before the

european bees were introduced, domestic stock

 

bought over to cut songline chemical trails

 

an exoskeleton of greed grows over some

their faces are made of chitin; they are drones

 

they use drones to control the queens, mating

with hornets; crossbreeding raiders that pillage

 

mandibles snipping worker’s wages in half.

 

when you kiss someone your lips are a bee-space

apart in the frame of your entwined combs

 

first comes the nectar, then comes the honey

then comes regent hand fed on royal jelly

 

even humans like insects, started small

 

there is the great pacific slumgum, the

galilee basin slumgum, hiroshima slumgum

 

nagasaki slumgum, chernobyl slumgum,

fukashima slumgum, ok tedi slumgum

 

bophal slumgum, great barrier reef

 

bees were the first flash mob, washboarding

out the front of their homes spontaneously

 

& in unison, the choreography of a hundred

million years of cryptic insect line dancing

 

a ritual of the home all creatures praise

 

everything should be queenright, but it is not

they are never satisfied in their mind’s colony

 

they swarm over the new years’ sales like guard-

bees over an intruder who doesn’t smell right

 

sheer weight of numbers cooks the wasp

 

when the bees leave, we shall also go

only our fossilised forms will remain

 

dead grey cities, the pressures of our

own swarm will turn our sappy lives

 

into history’s unbreakable amber

 

pollengoing

pollengoing

 

pollengoing

pollengoing

 

pollengone

 

 

Barnacle

 

 

I cut myself on a four hundred

year old barnacle. It was my fault.

I strayed into its seaside territory

by mistake. The ocean ambushed

me in the beach’s narrowed alley.

Cursed in a language before blue.

Its wine-dark, shoulder-charge

knocked me onto its cobblestoned

street; my hand parachuted open,

launching like a grappling hook, but

gravity hid behind my legs & pulled.

 

Its edge opened up my palm neat

as a pay envelope’s promise. It

was part of a razor gang after all,

its cutthroat mates flashed shivs too.

Hard to imagine their cave hideout,

a distant cousin to the Himalayas was

once a mass of lifeless sea creatures;

fishbones, bleached coral, mother

of pearl, shell, grit rasped into smooth

particles by the tide’s kinetic sawmill

& risen as mountainous tomb.

 

Darwin studied them. Rubbed his

stiff fingers over their stars, old as an

Elizabethan dirk. He knew an organism

that lived so long, must know something

about morphology, longevity. Measured

their jagged coastlines, counted bubbles

that escaped from their miniature craters.

He cut himself too, proffering his own

blood for science’s spell. His revelation.

The simplest live longest, the complex

die sooner from too many moving parts.

 

Anyhow, my hand opened its red smile,

& rebirthed its salt back into the mother

country’s briny womb. My blood oozed

in hot waves, as the flap of skin undulated

like a polyp helpless in a strong undersea

current. This stigmata; blessed ultramarine

pain as though light itself filleted my flesh,

each beam a butcher’s knife. That was then.

The scar is bone white as the string of dead

coral & cuttlefish backbone left by a high tide.

My children’s children’s children, will see it die.

 


Chimaera

 

In antiquity there was no explanation for gas.

It was the foul breath of the gods, or worst

a half-human, half monster hybrid; a chimaera

that spewed flame in a grotto near Olympos.

These creatures lived underground, in slimy

aquifers where reputations displaced as myth.

Now, they have stirred the beast from its lair.

Thunderbolts of sand & mana blast at their

caverns. A titan slaughter. Hot, pestilent fumes

root through fissures like molten bronze in a

sword mould; a blowback against their creators.

Flames burn on brown water; in fear not seen

since Vietnam. The fighters have shark teeth

& red tongues. The gods fuel our machines.

 

 

Snow Geese

 

The snow geese are landing as lightly as flakes.

Their pink webbed feet dissolve perfectly as jelly

crystals into Butte Lake’s reddish bowl. Their legs

drive down like cocktail stirrers energising atoms.

The water tingles as ten thousand tired birds swirl

from the snowstorm’s playful wrestle. The point

bird is the first to quench; the long white glove of

its neck bends like a Queen’s wave as its rosy bill

scoops up Berkeley Pit’s unique terroir of arsenic,

cadmium, cobalt, copper, iron & zinc; enough zest

to liquefy steel. Death is not instantaneous like lethal

injection. The flock’s punishment is a liquid lunch of

burnt throats & festering gizzards, graphic as Owen.

White bodies float like foam on top of a hot drink.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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