Ringneck Parrots Flock Where Snakes Sleep: Passing by Wyening Mission

John Kinsella

 

Wandoos link hands to hold the gravel in place.

Salt scalds are edgy with big rains, and incipient

wheat crops welter in a green ghosting of algae.

This is not usual. The mission pillar to post, gates

to say the holy ones came and saw and olives

were grown. But where the snakes sleep,

ringnecks flock which is a miracle in itself.

Clumps of bush, fraternisation of York gum

and wandoo, even ruins of undergrowth

hang on, and high-up nesting hollows

bring energy and boost to the emerald

sapphire of accompanying birds. I’ve not

seen flocks this complete since I was a teenager,

and when one envelops us and we enter its cellular

body — as irritant or germs — its immune system

ejects us and the flock breaks away. Historic

buildings, boutique food label, cultivation

and labour and language drawn to crossroads

where bullet-holes mass and widen penumbra:

eye through crucifix overburdened with light

which blows the aperture, floods the picture.

But in the taints there is brilliance, and scrub

corridors make a weird legacy against the odds.

Can we sustain the notion of the few for the many,

will the largesse of sacrifice sell adequately

to compensate? I am inundated, I am

enveloped, I am gathered up in a rush

of ringneck parrots making the best

of what’s left, so loud, so orchestrated

we can all deny silence, the whisperings

of a savagely eroded gully, roots grasping

spray-percolated air — Roundup Ready —

and fall back into the spiritual plenty of tillage

that has driven snakes deep, deeper

than winter sleep.

 

John Kinsella’s most recent volumes of poetry are Drowning in Wheat: Selected Poems (Picador, 2016) andFirebreaks (WW Norton, 2016). His most recent collection of short stories is Crow’s Breath (Transit Lounge, 2015). His investigation of “place”, Polysituatedness: A Poetics of Displacement, is due out with Manchester University Press late 2016. He is a Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge University and Professor of Literature and Sustainability at Curtin University

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