‘Winter’ tries to be ‘winter’ but out of kilter
the whipped-up fronts and temperature
fluctuations change emergences and regressions,
and we ride the erratic currents. Orange splintered eye —
oracle we are drawn into, compelled to discuss
as best we know how, dragging a-priori
and dredging precedent in the heady moment
all surface and rapture under the Milky Way,
and those false prophets we dream over,
all those reassurances that our way is the best way.
Nonplussed in the encountering moment,
mesmerised or infiltrated by spikes of tissue
formed to replicate all mysteries, not just
tawny frogmouth language and knowledge.
And Tracy tells me Len Collard, who is greatly
respected in this house, told Tim that Tim’s totem
is the tawny frogmouth, and today in half-
formed light I note the play of York gum
bark and how camouflage is a condition —
that what we see is what we want to see
which is no great revelation until we
come close to the tawny frogmouth
unhindered, and its bark-like feathers
seem an almost frictionless surface
over which the slightest air current
rolls in perfection.
And we hear
how Guru, returning from Jam Tree Gully
after a day mowing, saw another
tawny frogmouth poised under
the rising moon, poised on the front
gatepost of the York house —
below the ancient mountain, Walwalinj —
news compiling between dwellings.
Guru also tells us of an echidna
he coaxed off Burgess Siding bridge, guiding
it to the safety of the near bank.
This is all
in the sunless aura of the Perth Art Gallery
I visited last week with Tim. We saw
Australian and American nineteenth-
century landscapes wherein the land buckled
under the gaze of the classical subject fled,
and shadows hadn’t yet been let loose
from the palette, quick to curse
the lie of the land.
And when I looked at the fella
staring into his dead fire in Down On His Luck,
I said, Wait until darkness falls
and the frogmouths test the light, show
another way of pushing back loss.
John Kinsella‘s most recent volumes of poetry are Drowning in Wheat: Selected Poems (Picador, 2016) and Firebreaks (WW Norton, 2016). His most recent collection of short stories is Old Growth (Transit Lounge, 2017). His investigation of “place”, Polysituatedness: A Poetics of Displacement, was published by Manchester University Press in late 2016. He is a Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge University and Professor of Literature and Sustainability at Curtin University.