And who among the angels will find you if you move?
Unfazed by the coast road, we welcomed the challenge
of beaches heaped with wrack and kelp,
the uncertainty of estuaries gargling inland.
Neither offered nor seeking the locals’ help,
we volunteered to take the King’s shilling
and gusted forth in an armada of vans
to appear beside unsuspecting straits,
bearing our strange totem across blanched tundras,
down cool corridors of shade beside dry-stone lanes
or out from some eternal grimy nowhere under
a fire-escape into the midday-cambered street,
all on the assumption we had a lien
on any place with a name or GPS coordinate.
In lairy parkas or Hawaiian shirts we took our snaps;
and if sometimes the aperture missed a turning,
no-one could accuse us of a major lapse
in plying our trade: nothing made us deviate
around the patriarch and his ageing wife yearning
under the terebinth, or those doomed towns on the savannah.
Our lenses were the centre of a circle
that is everywhere; the cursor receding, as if fending
off retirees in their motorhomes, schoolkids on cycles.
We laid chevrons down on macadam like manna,
to be gathered as directions demanded; found
opportune rams in their thickets, junk food scraps,
billboards and graffiti; filled our jars
from the remorseless shaduf
of history’s resentments; in chic boulevards or dusty bazaars
you could find us portrayed in antique maps
as cherubs puffing zephyrs of reproof
at the gaps left by burned, abandoned villages.
Our wings cover our eyes; your faces
grow unclear, blurred by the time we must
have spent out there, hurrying past all the places
we could not or would not go, a triage
of what had to be recorded so faithfully,
so faithfully missed.
Winner, 2022 WB Yeats Poetry Prize for Australia