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