So overpowering was the draw of these trees that people risked their lives. A spirit of transformation emanated from the forest.
– Ian Cohen, Greens MLC 1997.
A raindrop’s coldness
clings to my cheek
then scatters to the breeze.
My eyes twist along
a jagged fallen tree trunk
torn open to reveal
a swirling of rings inside
turning to mulch, eaten by moss,
a circling of faces half forgotten
as a chatter breaks the drizzly silence.
Your face is the last, dear friend,
a loop of your words repeating
like drops of rain
searching for gaps in my coat,
their chill settles on my body’s warmth.
I try to squirm
as they enter me more deeply.
I got in a car.
I drove away.
Freeway, highway, town, fields –
until a signpost
a dirt road narrowing,
led me to this towering forest.
I searched for a place to enter –
a chink, a path ……
Inside the trunk’s sodden roughness,
lines meander wildly
unique as my thumbprint.
The pattern is the same – or does it change
just a little with each repetition?
Branches break away, bending,
almost ready to writhe,
until they disappear
into a strangle of vines
each leaf a variation on a heart
heavy with droplets
that glisten grey as spots of light
squeeze through the waving canopy.
The crack of a whip bird, then another,
unseen like the burping frogs.
Almost silence, just the breeze’s whisper
as you stare at me from the shadows,
and a brief smile of sunlight
dapples the crazy sculptured trunk.
Words joust again in a hiss of static.
My lungs hurt
as I draw on a cigarette.
A whip bird cracks,
the frogs are blowing rasberries.
I got in a car.
I drove out of the city.
The dirt road narrowed.
I found a chink
to enter this towering forest.
I walk on.
My smoke drifts in sunlight
as water pooled above
gathers through a gap in rock and falls
churning and pausing, pooling anew –
almost still, a moment of clarity
over pebbles rounded and shining like pearls
except for frothy circles
spreading larger as they spin,
expanding and vanishing
so quickly they’re always there,
renewing and repeating, larger and smaller,
a whisper against the water whooshing
through endlessly polished scales of brown,
a glimpse inside the rock’s black surface.
And always, like a distant drumming,
the sound of the nearby falls –
I look up and search for them in vain
as a whip bird cracks, the frogs burp.
I find instead a tree’s gigantic trunk
and follow it,
past staghorns, the scars of branches lost,
the turquoise tissues of lichen,
skipping shadows of leaves above,
as a bird swoops from layers of fern fronds.
The creek’s voices are bubbling together
like choristers scattered far and wide –
hums, whispers and basses,
a language that cannot be spoken,
but full of such patterns of feeling,
I begin to know what it’s saying.
Circles bubble on the pool
as I sense you beside me,
slowly breathing like me.
Then you vanish
except for your breath and thoughtfulness.
I rise to my feet ….
Charles Freyberg is a Kings Cross poet and playwright. He regularly performs from his collection Dining at the Edge. He has also been published in Meanjin. His poetry features in Peter Urquhart’s the Experiment, a hybrid of dance, music and text, to be performed at the Sydney Conservatorium in August.