Last Rites

James Walton


My Lord, God knows I am your loyal vassal

no word has reached us and our plight

has deepened, the sally gate has fallen.


Wombat sappers under the cover of black cockatoos

(We could see nothing in the moonless night)

advance relentlessly, undermining all in their path.


As though blind to all consequence, swooping acrobats

of sworn enemies are united in pursuit of the turrets;

plummeting as lightning shuttlecocks.


Ashen faced cuckoo shrikes echo our betraying steps

reveal our position to lolling parrot corsairs,

squeaking conceits are all about us.


The mopokes allow us no sleep, keep time

for the nocturnal barrage of kookaburra flak

in banging fusillades shaking us to the bones.


We are invested, mountain ash

drain the slurry moat the watch tower tumbles,

in the citadel yard my best were as mill barley.


No quarter left to give, the stairway swept

war painted wallabies advance no longer garrulous,

echidna scribes work the last door in sigilic rhyme.


No message is out of the demesne, owls shred

our weasel words to snow on tree ferns refracting,

the sentinel trapeze fronds impenetrable.


All hope weary traveller has left us, our journey spent

in the drunkenness of oil and the snuff of coal,

we were consumed in temporal amnesia.


James Walton is from South Gippsland. His work has appeared in a number of journals and anthologies (Australian Love Poems, APJ, Poetry d’Amour, A Sudden Presence) and The Age. He was shortlisted for the ACU National Literature Prize 2013, and Specially Commended in the Welsh Poetry Competition 2014.

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