Bucolic (MM beach 34.48°S, 150.91°E)

Peter Frankis

 

You know how

when the drug (poetry) kicks

everything – cars, lawns,

a V-energy-boost can on the sand

– is glazed with potential.

The young mum

barely taller than her eldest

marshalling stroller and kids

across the highway

in this light looks like

Canova’s Helen of Troy.

 

and the birds, the birds

4 black cockatoos

lift over the ridge – so close

I could hear

their feathers catch the air,

galahs chiack

on the high voltage wires,

a kestrel perched on

a 24kV transformer

targets a fieldmouse

down in the litter.

 

and then

when I thought all this was done

right there in the lantana

an eastern whip bird.

listen…

 

[https://youtu.be/3vz7mqnrzZg]

 

Here

on the degraded ridge

behind the works

with a thousand linear feet

of medium-carbon steel being

punched and welded

and forklifts’

back-up beepers

already.

 

Auden’s complaint (1)

(from what I can tell)

was that the violent world

that Piero di Cosimo

painted at the start of the 16th century –

forests of lions eating

bears being clubbed

by satyrs fucking

pigs tearing

bloody meat

right from the

throat —

— had been civilised

by the English middle class

so they could picnic on Clapham Common

on a nice sunny day.

 

Perhaps (being clever)

he was also talking about poetry –

how Coleridge, Keats

and Wordsworth (the worst)

had replaced poetry’s

horny appetites

with sylvan nymphs and

daffodils and

tricksy rhymes.

 

But what to make

of all this life

amongst the trash and

blasted earth?

by the time they’re done,

the zinc and lead will have leached a thousand feet down

the creeks will run toxic for years –

yet

here’s an

eastern water dragon

eking a living on the muddy shore.

 

Truth is (of course) the forests are still here –

the cormorant slick

through the morning swell

is spearing sprat and mullet,

the dolphins tear at the salmon

until the water’s red,

the mynahs are

beating the crow

for first dibs on

last-night’s

take-away

container.

 

I remember as a kid

watching the neighbours

lop a chicken for dinner –

how the brothers

laughed and laughed

as the body

(you’re supposed

to tie the legs)

ran in that

familiar spasm –

finally banging

into a car door

and falling down.

 

 


  1. W.H. Auden’s poem – ‘Bucolic 2. Woods’

 

 

Peter Frankis is an Australian-based writer and poet, now living in the industrial town of Port Kembla south of Sydney. 

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