Fifth Moon at Redgate

Robert Wood

 

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

our land,

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

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