Pastoral Poems


The sky reflects the wilderness.
There are miles on the map without
"interesting features",
the blank spaces Dorn talks about
& which are usually somebody's home;
places I know nothing of
save those blanknesses,
colour of highways, unfathomables
suggesting more from less.

A kind of geography
which isn't, finally, a nationalism
- isn't a wallchart for a mining company -
announces there's more out there
than we can take in.


Clouds hang at high altitude.
A tin windbreak shelters a rotating sheep.

Figures group and regroup against the gust,
suit collars turned up in the spring air

an hour away from the capital
in the town where the poet bought groceries

whose books you could recognise birds from.
Outside the church, wedding guests gather;

dots on the map, imitating Brueghel
and a distant notion of the picaresque.

A pile of green logs near the station
treated with a foreign substance

await dispersal, assembly of stockades,
invented landscapes in distant suburbs.


Gay sailboats & bloodless nudes
in Art Deco bathtubs;
a vision of country ‘progressives'
lumbering the 1920's into the 40's;
war poetry of urgers and speculators
in a district where a river winds
sluggishly to coastal lakes
- this notion of style, though rare,
aligns with the golf & polo clubs
& does not postulate Italians or Chinese
in the gardens of Wy Yung or the hills
round Bullumwaal
- Billy Ah Chow's now empty shack
near the summit of Nugong;
the last photo of him in overalls
at the Blue Duck Hotel, fifty years back.


Dark edged piano
in a badly lit room;
the concern with tone;

a likeness now visible
between the white folding screen -
summer japonoiserie - and this:

rhombus of sunlight
on an 18th century ornament;
the sky outside painted in 1946.


The young man, whom they called
"frighteningly close to genius"
moves easily in his role
among Edwardian furnishings.

An alter-ego, he is "taken up"
because of an adjectival facility
& a bohemian facade - his books
widely praised, seldom discussed.

The drug ‘experiments' prove marketable.
He moves to an ancestral dome
where wealth and imagination fall apart
in a district noted for its cheese.


Across a saddle from Mt Ainslie
looking northeast over open tableland
- pine plantations mark the border between
here & Bungendore;
a dirt road cut off by the forest's edge.
Behind, the triangulation with Majura &
Black Mountain,
an environment of campus suburbs
- no more than an address for notions
of Human Endeavour.
A tourism of sorts continues
in foreign landscapes where light is mud
& the young men (mostly) pick over
brown artefacts in green fields:
what they call ‘identity'
a failure of imagination.

Poet's Note: October 1983