Edge, Hold

Stuart Cooke

1. 
it has a depth that keeps going— 
no matter how deep you go, it goes deeper 

meanwhile 

(bell birds jostle with clippings of German 
and Mandarin) 

the walking tracks imply routes to discovery 
but really they are threads from one site to another 
they reveal nothing of its size 
or of where you are in its vast body 

it could be in the middle of a geological convulsion, frozen only by sight 
it yawns into time 
it trickles and cascades 

(how many times have you seen it start this way?) 

how to come to terms with it? 
how to really see it? to not slide across its surface 
nor live, unknowing, on its edge 

a vast, stormy ocean: petrified 
turned into tree form 

(if there were a single word) 

waves and waves of forest and outcrop 

back to the trails and their black, trampled earth 
any one of them can escape into the forest dark 

or you stand at lookouts and try to think across the sprawling green rugs of it 
the scattered needles of white trunks 

there is no phrase that you haven’t seen—it surrounds you 
with this very sameness 
even as it carries your vision to the edge of space 

if there were a single word it would be cradle 
the way it has always been there, thinking within you 
the way that it holds you as your thoughts start to fly 

(don’t try to hold on 
let it go) 

the way there is nothing so small or finite as your body 
but nothing so open to blueness, to the pull of the moon 

2. 
as summer cracks open 

(a satchel hung on a post) 

nothing to sense but the undulating floor 
of an ancient premise 
a warm wind gathers you up 

the day tips; you start to roll down to the precipice 
from where the world drops away 

(from the shadows, a milk-blue haze) 

what curls around you defines the edges 
distant voices welcome your stalled desire 
thoughts are sucked out into long strokes of sun 

a floor of forest crumples up 
and detaches itself from the universe 

far below, the white speck of a bird follows the river’s vein 

(no, you have not lost yourself, your body’s slight tremors at the cliff) 

vast, sandstone theatre, walls 
like broken chunks of honeycomb in mid-afternoon light 
a flawless blue dome of the imagination rimmed 
by endless iterations of forested ridge, paler and paler 
until the hue grows darker, like an ocean, just beneath the sky 

then, mirrored by these proliferations of verdant arcs, 
impossibly blue thoughts stretch to bone white above the horizon— 

(name the summits on the other side
or let them float like cool flames) 

some things are closer to hand: 
the sharp relief of ferns and crags; your feet 
pinned to their field 
while the rest withdraws from physics into dream-form 
its shy smoothness 
a sulphur-crested explosion scrawls across your view 

(it’s further back 
it will not be hurried 
it will not wait for you) 

this is the ground upon which knowledge grows 
a giant snake sinks into the valley floor, dragging sheets of forest 
down with its calculus 

on and on sight goes, gliding along the contours 
or plummeting to what the water has found 
before spiralling upward and opening into canyon— 
there’s nothing more beautiful than your body 
only with your body could you feel this, could you step forward 


Stuart Cooke’s latest books include the poetry collection Lyre (UWAP, 2019) and a translation of Gianni Siccardi’s The Blackbird (Vagabond, 2018), and he is the co-editor of Transcultural Ecocriticism (Bloomsbury, 2021). He is a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing and Literary Studies at Griffith University.

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