A Pebble For the Quiet Place

Now with all seasons damaged under our savage dominion

it’s strange to think seven people drowned here

that water once flowed with such force

down this culvert between greenhouse cubes

of midday silence, cubbies adrift in the quiet

slides with hands in their pockets.

 

Elsewhere, the future rears

on haunches of rare marble and parquetry.

Its attendants show you reconstructed offices

with their quaint typewriters

an ingenious system for sending documents by tube

ornately framed portraiture of our various pasts.

 

But don’t be fooled: every city is really two.

You think you are familiar with these streets

that they ask nothing of you

but until you have come here

you have only been acquainted with the first,

its shared and gifted future.

 

At lake’s end, suburbs’ edge, secreted from the hubbub on the terrace

glimpsed from the approach to the town centre

dropped like quotation marks

the elderly use on greeting cards for emphasis

these small places have been raised from dailiness by a silence

that even stops marsupials from grazing on the centre lawn

 

around which so many bricks placed in a wall mention ‘home’:

home the map incised

on smooth marble records where settlers’ cottages

became the lake that honours them.

The sandstone stele calls the children home

from the water.  Home for those who would never find it

 

painted on poles in the shape of a boat tethered

to the safer swell of the grass.

We would have known you

except for the casuarinas’ deference

that sets you apart.  Absences, yes, but in reminding us of loss

our home is made in the second city

 

its memories enacted through these shapes:

the smooth sides and beveled edges of a large black block

push our gaze outwards past the lake’s perimeter

as settlers watched for cloud massing over the basin.

A tall stone breaks the tilt of afternoon sunlight

into a shadow that follows the watercourse.

 

The stonework’s slope compels

the line of sight from a father who looks up

from the picnic blanket where he’s sitting

to where his daughter stood up a moment ago

the way people look up

when something huge is falling from the sky

Australian Poetry Anthology v8 2020

a link to Australian Poetry website with a video playback of the launch of APA Vol 8