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