Where oceans rolled now mountains tilt their wings
And rock beneath the weakened land erodes –
And in steep gorges life in crevice clings,
Brief remnants of a past that slowly rose
From watery haunts to conquer land and life
And on that land left water far behind.
Now progress leaves the rainfall in retreat
And water’s just a softness in the wind,
Or sweat that spills in limpid, liquid heat.
Beside my path the grass trees overflow,
And bracken, brittle, cuts a jagged frame;
Boulders crouched in solemn tombstone rows
That mourn the strangled flow; an empty stream.
Like veins collapsing in an addict’s hand
Our rivers sink and fold into the rock.
Fresh water now is rare, the land in drought,
And shriveled pastures shrivel dying stock,
And those who live within now do without.
The fractured ocean bed seems still alive
And swells beneath my feet to burst in plumes
Of cockatoos that spend soft-dusted lives
In rocky depths and ancient catacombs
Whose fossil creatures glide in frozen shoals
While high above the heavens ebb and flow,
Inverted waters rise in waves of clouds
That cast their dusty shadows far below –
As empty, burning, suffocating shrouds.
‘This poem has both the grandeur and delicacy of an almost neoclassical, Augustan elegance – the verse is regular, well-paced and its perspective is both judicious and minutely insightful. It escapes both Romantic affect and ballad simplification. It’s a poem that “thinks” more than “feels”. This is wise, meditative, compelling poetry.’ David Gilbey, President of Booranga Writer’s Centre and author of Pachinko sunset (Island Press, 2016).