BRETT DIONYSUS of Ipswich is our club Poet assigned to us from the Red Room, Sydney
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 fairytale
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.
Fire cleanses more than memory; a bad
Season will clear out tussock grass without
A backckward glance. The charred ‘calling logs’
Where males wrought sound waves into fine
Invisible jewellery to hang their desire from
A females’ soft ear, will stain the forest black
Like Hiroshima buildings, dormant in their
Centuries’ long grief. In the fire’s post-coital
Bliss these things will happen; a new city of
Denseness will grow swamping the old lives
Of refugees, shaken to their core by the blazon
Plan. & their bristles will melt like flagpoles
At ground zero, their plucky hearts reduced to
Slag, some off-cut in the mind’s hot furnace.
Judith Wright is one of Australia’s best-know poets, was one of thefounders of the Wildlife Preservation Society of Qld (of which we are a
branch), and lived in the Scenic Rim for about 30 years, writing many
of her poems during this time.
Brett has been doing research on Judith’s life, and here is one of his
poems, about Judith herself.
For Judith Wrigh
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.
The light years of their birth & death. The immeasurable
Expansion & collapse of eras, like a husband’s stretched
Snort of breath at his wife’s nippy questions. A snail’s oozy
Diminutive progress in slow motion or a gradual weave on
Time’s parasitic loom, threads inflating like a clown’s trick
Balloon, the poodle twisting into place. Their millennial
Embrace, as finally green fingers encircle & clasp, caught
In mid-strangulation, a psychotic Daphne transformed into
An aerial-killer or Bluebeard wrapping his cloak around
His bride’s bare shoulders. A Tin Soldier of sub-tropical
Rainforest, the two hearts meld into one, then inexorably
Decay sets in. The long marriage never lasts, as drizzle
& borers carve out memory’s core. Until, an open-air,
Walk-in cathedral is all that remains of cellular union.
Spotted Tailed Quoll (Southern subspecies)
Dasyurus maculatus maculatus
To some we’re the polka-dotted red menace;
We are feared for our beliefs, blood sacrifice
Being so out of vogue nowadays, unless you’re
Licensed. We invade chicken coops because they
Are there. You went to the moon once, so you
Know how it feels, to long for the inexplicable.
Our western empire collapsed & we were forced
Into the hills & valleys like a lost tribe retreating
From a glacier’s swollen tongue. We are cuddly
Nosferatus drinking up fear’s salty brew; children
Marvelling at a fresh wound. Our drive is an old
One. To sink our teeth into everything; to spread
Feathers out like tarot cards on night’s dark table.
Who else will upset your order; mess up the room.
A power as diluted as the monarch’s they were named for;
Their colonial reach across the border, tempered by more
Indigenous agitators, the great unwashed mass of noisy miners
That carp at class barriers as though paparazzi DNA cavorted
In their bloodstreams. Their black & lemon royally streaked
Robes, no match for the plain grey dullness of the common
Folk. The higher echelons of society; eucalypt canopy offers
No refuge for the persecuted; the bland workers unite &
Expel the divinely instigated elite. There is something
To be missed though; a pomp & ceremony of the ages,
The slender, curved beak like a tiny scimitar slicing into
An ironbark flower’s heart. A headdress of pollen sticking
To the Regent’s cheek like a kiss from a defeated people,
The subtle dignity of slaves that nothing high-born can resist.
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.
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.