Death of a Year

Michael Farrell

 

for Martin and Tomaz

 

Our memories of ruin fail to make it through customs. The

helicopters rave, make no sense; somehow they know what

they’re doing

But go back, thoughts, to laughter and neurotic running around

a European city. An exchange of books through a third

party. There is one friend in these cases that takes on a huge

debt. The newspaper columns write themselves, they are writers

of a generation, they

were implicated in the mistakes that everyone made. To not

enforce them in an obit would itself be betrayal. White

spaces indicate hospital, erect letters represent love. We were

way too tired to think of going on with

life as it was. There was no room for projects of small ambition

of mere example. The appropriate would go on being perpetrated

but not by

us. In the Slovene city, the tea house drips with rust from

the local trees. The trace of poetry in the air only with

the mention of the dead’s name. It was a year of change here

too. A white sea eagle in a too small tree foretold of knowledge

disappearing; a blue-faced honeyeater would forever be our

bird of mourning. The surety of a line paired

with the thrusting of translation; unlabelled orange juice

I’m drunk. Perhaps we still have grave dirt on our hands

The city rumbles

This close to the centre, the lights never go out, lovers and

starers-into-rivers mean the bridges are never clear. As our

friends

knew, a lot of loss can inhere in a year. A whole town can

be wiped out. A habitat, a type of mole or fly. We have their

recorded voices of course. We can turn our backs on what

we have and let it disappear like we’re asleep. In our

dreams we’re being hunted in a forest that is itself endangered

We’re passengers in a car, joking at each enjambment we

survive

 

I wrote this poem thinking about Martin and Tomaž Šalamun, who both died last year. I owe all I know about making a book of poetry to Martin. He was also one of my encouragers in writing a PhD. The published version, Writing Australian Unsettlement, is dedicated to him.

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