After The Book of Songs ‘Seventh Moon’
Fifth moon, bunny orchids come like comets, ears upwards,
bonfire rages in the light rain
breeze comes slowly the whole day
and red tails gather to pepper,
abalone grows fat and sizzle hits the pan,
the crays have gone away.
By seventh moon, we do not know barefoot,
it’s cold to the face without bitterness
no emu sighted, gone to lay,
boots with wool blessing the toes as frost bites the roots and
stew becomes curry becomes stock becomes soup
becomes stew again stew, rassam that we knew,
night calls to load the wood basket as fog comes in against blame
elders in the photo frame, jarrah ablaze.
Then, eleventh moon, all memory fades,
and, in sun, we burn the colour of bottlebrush flowers,
the fields like dun anticipating the dust,
the saltbush pushing up, and we walk towards the granite outcrop
to hear the buzzing of the hive
ready for honey to be ripe.
Fifth moon, we forget the first
when we went without wetsuits
and dived in the hole of the reef,
saw the whole of the world
like a song increasing as we knelt on the path,
pigfaced the northern star.
By sixth moon, the weather has come in
and grey skies speak of the ball they kicked to heaven
to wake the gods from their slumber
to watch us play,
and when they conclude in ninth moon,
we will say, the wind here hasn’t dropped today,
crays are on their way,
the farmers will be back at market soon
and the blow-ins coming too
from eastward and northward looking for a truth.
Fifth moon, we say comes after eighth
if we were from a place
that had belts for saucepans and bowed before the violent
who wore crowns of stolen gold and stolen diamonds at ceremonies starched white
for lack of sun and refinement.
Fifth moon comes again, but this time after fourth
when karri strips itself into pink,
salmon running with dolphins rounding in the bay
and their presence teaches us how the cycle goes on,
bleeding the fish headfirst in the sand
like the others who are casting here, wading in thongs.
They’ll recall those days in ten when the breeze switches place
and the squid sucks away the night sky
forgetting the ballot and the tennis and the games that don’t belong,
when cicadas have their way
and offshore makes the spray,
and the possum comes to look through the early moon
and the potaroo and the quenda do too, boobook hoot.
Between twelve and one moon, two and three moon,
the fever starts and pitches up
the whiskey flows and the patches of seaweed bring maggots
for freezing when the herring and the whiting and the mulloway
come back for more, labouring close to the shore.
Now though, fifth moon,
it is ham and cheese toasties on rising
and the crays come to this place
as they have done, always,
when better people than us, giants, wake at dawn
and the stars that are the ancestors are still at play.
This never was, never will be
but we like it here anyway, do what we can.
We cannot stay
for our place is out there, on the waves,
guests till the end of days,
in the pages of history down Kerala way in god’s own country,
eating appam and idli and rava thosai
avial, prawn curry and beef fry
putu and polichattu and roti
giving thanks in the coconut shade for sovereign territory
back home again with the fisherfolk and the family and the ghosts of Puthucurichy,
unfolding with grace
letting fifth moon turn into sixth moon into seventh moon into infinity
far from Redgate knowing our place as Malayalis.
Robert Wood is a Malayali poet interested in place, belonging, dream, identity and enlightenment. He currently works as the Creative Director of the Centre for Stories and is the Chair of PEN Perth. Robert’s latest book of poems is Redgate in bilingual Hindi and English edition from Red River in New Delhi. He lives on Noongar country and can be found at: www.robertdwood.net