Skip to content

Content From Issue: Volume 3 Number 1 (February 2016)

Back to issue
From: Vol.03 N.01 – How Humans Engage with Earth

Route sketched on a map, as if walking

by Susan Tichy

Route sketched on a map, as if walking

were a kind of drawing, large-scale,

repeatable. Yet, like the body, a walk

exists only as it happens. Look back,

if you can, and call the telling

a literature of paradise: the long days,

the short nights, wrapped up in an army poncho,

rolled in under the willow-brush to sleep, while

‘at every moment some new ridge

seemed to start into existence.’ Now

double the silence by listening to it:

some old tide-race nothing now

but a seep with yellow warblers. From there,

you may darken the way with a pencil,

steepen the avalanche path in accord

with leg muscles that hurt for days—

the near retaining evidence

of far. You may say, if you wish,

it was ‘quite monotonous all the way up,

composed of a winding tendril’—

though not if you copy accurately

those seventeen spruce cut off

at the depth of snow, their scattered trunks

awash in a lake of flowers: the scene

of force in all its glory. Nothing else known

if it cannot be measured in strides—

and no two equal. That is why

you must ‘tenderly unite the darker tints,’

devote the day to surviving the mountain

(that’s meant to say surveying, sorry)—

a mingling of topography and math,

or footsteps with quotations. Genre may be

a pleasant ramble or ‘stumbling, groaning,

slipping and pulling up short, over stones,

puddles, snow-wet grass, and every variety of pitfall

including cows.’ So tell me again

about the fall through ice, and I’ll tell you

of my boots on the trail, a well-drawn fact

despite the ‘solitude of frozen peaks.’

For after paradise comes the body,

with ‘all its goddamn ups and downs—’

its night frost has hardened the snow, or

soak a kitchen towel in a bowl of tea,

lay it over a sunburned back. Take in

the undulating near, the far level,

blue and cold, with ‘terraces of pure velvet’

(otherwise known as evening shadows),

clouds on the move, ‘like weeds

in a river current,’ and a dozen moraines

thrown about in a kind of frenzy.

I remember it all, the view was splendid,

and I’ve marked the spot where,

‘struggling to remember

where she put her foot on the way up,’

the dog crawled into my rucksack to sleep.

Quotations are from various works by John Ruskin, Leslie Stephen, and Rebecca Solnit.

Published: January 2016
Susan Tichy

is the author of five books, including Trafficke (2015), Gallowglass (2010), and Bone Pagoda (2007), all from Ahsahta Press. She teaches at George Mason University, and when not teaching lives in a ghost town in the Colorado Rockies. This poem is from a new manuscript, The Avalanche Path in Summer.

Back to issue
From: Vol.03 N.01 – How Humans Engage with Earth

When the bees came

by Heather Taylor Johnson

I heard it first, like the sun had heated up the earth so well the earth had begun to sing


a swarm of them, maybe three hundred outside my backdoor

a community of insects looking to rent our passionfruit vines

enquiring about space, about the smell of the place.


I contemplated a big stick or the garden hose then thought of honey

called pest control, asked the council what’s to be done with intimidating

squatters. Apparently if I did nothing it might pass, like the silent lover

who will not ask why her man turns away when the lights go out.

My children stayed indoors, my dog eating under close watch

those bees hunkering down in a brown cone of ownership

taunting the dried clothes, as if they would never again know

the safety of a chest of drawers.


At night I dreamt I comforted a friend who’d had bees of her own;

in the morning the bees were still there


their sound reminding me I can never own the home in which I dwell:

even the walls answer to mites, even the skirtings suffer mice.

Just last month it was the apricot tree.

How unimportant my two feet while birds pecked at the best of our fruit.

How pompous it was to say the apricots were even ours.


Even my dog could not razzle the bees from his favourite pissing spot.

Even my husband did not know where to stand.

The birds circled round, not knowing where to land.

Published: January 2016
Heather Taylor Johnson

Heather Taylor Johnson’s fourth book of poetry, The Dog’s Own Backyard, will be out from Five Islands Press in November 2016. She is the poetry editor for Transnational Literature and the editor of the forthcoming anthology The Fractured Self: Poetry of Chronic Illness and Pain. Her second novel, Jean Harley was Here, will be published by UQP in 2017.

Back to issue
From: Vol.03 N.01 – How Humans Engage with Earth

We started when

by Gabrielle Higgins

I kept thinking of news-clip images

grief collapsing people


the irrelevance of vertical

my affinity with the floor


once I stopped on a track

unable to go on  I curled on a rock


there  in the sun

I was sedimentary


everything gained clarity

Then  there was something to say


He, like I

began from broken


now writes himself as landscape

All that residue in the make up of cliffs

Published: January 2016
Gabrielle Higgins

is a Sydney poet, dancer and community development worker. The common threads through her varied careers, and themes in her poetry, are inclusivity and connection. She likes trying to understand moments that surprise her, through poetry.

Back to issue
From: Vol.03 N.01 – How Humans Engage with Earth

Small change

by Gina Mercer

Mercer-Small change

 – First published in Gina Mercer’s collection, Weaving Nests with Smoke and Stone, Walleah Press, 2015, p16.

Published: January 2016
Gina Mercer

is a writer, teacher and editor. She has taught creative writing in universities and communities for 30 years. She was Editor of Island from 2006-2010. She has published five poetry collections. Her latest, Weaving Nests with Smoke and Stone, is all about the birds (Walleah Press, 2015).

Back to issue
From: Vol.03 N.01 – How Humans Engage with Earth

Big time

by John Upton

Two magpies in the purple jacaranda –

shadows of their pterodactyl ancestry

they strut and hop, two officers, arms tucked

behind them, unaware they’ve lost a war.

Down here the war goes on, this tiny lizard

catching the garden sun was once as vast

as a dump truck, before the asteroid.

My kind was a skittering mouse, now I’m a fortified

tower and his kind is scattering

to dodge my sandals. Tiny creatures flicker

like torn nerve endings in the wounded leg

of Tyrannosaurus Rex. For Darwin, this

was evolution in its battle-gear

affirming the fierce divinity of change.

Published: January 2016
John Upton

John Upton’s poetry has been published in the 2015 and 2014 editions of Best Australian Poems, in daily newspapers in Australia and in literary journals in Australia and England. His first collection, Embracing The Razor, published in 2014 by Puncher and Wattmann, was short-listed for the Anne Elder Award. He has also had five stage plays produced.

Back to issue
From: Vol.03 N.01 – How Humans Engage with Earth

Reading the frog economy

by P. S. Cottier

So if frogs were currency, I grew up in a time of wealth. We’d pour dozens of lively taddies into buckets; little ones like commas in the rich brown pages of the ponds, betwixters sprouting legs like exclamation marks, and the fat copper adults. They weren’t like rare coins back then when I were a lass, they were just as common as two cent pieces; nursery rhyme familiars. Every suburban bog housed their evening pukpuks of attraction, their sudden bursts of swim.

Ah, but since then, since that once upon a time, it’s been a real bear market for the frog economy. We’ve cleansed the ponds of amphibious poetry. Soft bodies, splayed feet are not a good bet on the futures exchange; I’d invest in bottled, pure water if I were you. Read the labels: Guaranteed to contain no frog (music or body or magical transformation or splash! or the foaming floating islands of egg).

In my memory I flick every rock and find a frog deposit. We’d withdraw them with no worry; take them home in triumphant ice-cream containers, a whole Europe of minor Princes carried by a court of pesky kids. Now a child blessed with luck might be shown a frog as if it were formed from a weak and discoloured gold; about to melt away, first legs, then body. See that children? That’s a frog. No kissing, please.

Listen to an interview with P. S. Cottier at Verity La, and hear her read this poem.

Published: January 2016
P. S. Cottier

lives in Canberra. Her pocket book Paths Into Inner Canberra describes a bike ride through the city, and the wildlife near Parliament House. On Tuesdays she usually posts a new poem at, often about nature, monsters, or both.

Back to issue
From: Vol.03 N.01 – How Humans Engage with Earth

We have the song, so we have the land

by Phillip Hall

for Borroloola’s DanceSite, Marlene Karkadoo Timothy and Lia Pa’apa’a


This fighting town is in remission

for tonight pride is torch lit by stars

as DanceSite shakes-a-leg and stomps

a country whole. Assembling on blankets

in a dusty football ground our goals

have been transformed into outdoor cinema

as Chooky Dancers raise a storm

with Gurrumul and Blue King Brown.

And as the bardibardi and malbu make ready, collecting

players of clap sticks and didj, the dancers and kids

flicker excitedly between blankets, all painted

and dressed in their tribe’s colours. Tonight

everything is sacred by degree and in Language

as purple Garrawa perform the Nanny Goat Dance

and everyone cracks it. The golden Gudanji bosses

of the Nuwalinya cycle sing next in descending scales

their metamorphic visions of white-ochred munga-munga

as mermaids dancing with plaited

wet bark and windmill blades as feathers – striding

in a loop from bore to bore; dancing

and singing across country still; and then there’s hush

as Yanyuwa men fly in red and white ochre, anklets

of leaves, bi-plane headdresses and wings

as arms spread wide for strength

stomped through the pelvis to ground in remembrance

of war’s search and rescue service. When a spirit

passes on, it returns to country. This is our inherited

fight, to sing the song back to our land.

Published: January 2016
Phillip Hall

is a poet working as an editor with Verity La’s “Emerging Indigenous Writers Project” and as a poetry reader at Overland. In 2014 he published Sweetened in Coals. In 2015 he published Diwurruwurru, a book of his collaborations with the Borroloola Poetry Club. He is currently working on a collection of place-based poetry called Fume. This project celebrates Indigenous people & culture in the Northern Territory’s Gulf of Carpentaria.

Back to issue
From: Vol.03 N.01 – How Humans Engage with Earth

The inevitable snow and the wayward possum

by Dorothea Lasky and R. D. Wood

The sun and the possum and the white snow

and the deer and the mountain and the taro

and the inchworm and the amethyst and the stiff curtains

and the winch blade and the iron cage and the egg,

and the glow-in-the-dark egg and the silver throat and the mongoose

and the on-the-wall duck and the rabid trumpet and the mirror of longing

and the inlaid eyes and the hot pink olives and the bed where I put my suit yesterday

and the porcelain happenstance of your armour and the knot in my stomach and the


all of it, in a pile, and sprinkled with violet and ivy

and sprinkled with rosehip and phosphorescence

the light coming in endlessly

the joy moving seamlessly

through the wind, which was warming the air

through the pine, which was combing the sky

past the black pines, farther in the distance

the world was awash with magic.

Published: January 2016
Dorothea Lasky

Dorothea Lasky is the author of four books, most recently ROME (W.W. Norton/Liveright, 2014). She is an Assistant Professor of Poetry at Columbia University’s School of the Arts and lives in New York City.

R. D. Wood

is the author of two books, most recently loam-words (Electio Editions, 2016). He is on the faculty of The School of Life and lives in Melbourne.

Back to issue
From: Vol.03 N.01 – How Humans Engage with Earth


by Allan Lake

As I  slowly cycle along

Elwood canal, overhanging

branches threaten to leaf

my face.  I dare them, then

go out of my way to nuzzle

in passing. Flirtation with

wayward eucalypts.

Published: January 2016
Allan Lake

Originally a teacher from Saskatchewan, Allan Lake has lived in Vancouver, Cape Breton Island, Ibiza, Tasmania, Perth and Melbourne. His first collection, Tasmanian Tiger Breaks Silence, was published in Tasmania in 1988 and his second, Sand in the Sole, came out in 2014. In 2015 Lake won the Elwood Poetry Prize.

Back to issue
From: Vol.03 N.01 – How Humans Engage with Earth


by Allis Hamilton

On a grey rainy day

a cuckoo comes

to a tree at my window.


At irregular intervals

it hammers among the fat drops

falling onto the flat tin roof.


Uncurling the sleeping cat from my lap

I walk out into the misty sky

to try and find the feathered form.


Given a choice

I would live forever in a day like this:

wet, grey, visited by birds


singing their intricate songs.

I would read stories of bicycle rides

and embroider the thoughts of a honey bee.


It takes me days

to wash off the nagging world,

rinsing and rinsing until


finally I find my own skin.

Though I just can’t seem to find

that bird that is hammering.

Published: January 2016
Allis Hamilton

creates poetry, art and music. She scampers barefoot over rocks. Some of her poems live in the Australian Poetry Journal; Bimblebox 153 Birds – an Australian touring exhibition; Your Beautiful Names – an anthology responding to poems by asylum seekers by Mark Time books. She is a joint convener of PoetiCas – Castlemaine’s Poetry Readings.

An Australian and international
journal of ecopoetry and ecopoetics.

Plumwood Mountain Journal is created on the unceded lands of the Gadigal and Wangal people of the Eora Nation. We pay our respects to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and to elders past, present and future. We also acknowledge all traditional custodians of the lands this journal reaches.