The Man Who Spoke Playground
Just there on the rise, before the road descends
into older suburbs on one side, and new estates
have replaced the pine forest where the kids once
threw sticks into a creek now turned into a street name,
my daughter and I have come to a small playground.
Above us a shade sail, like the wing
of a huge raptor tethered to creosote-dark posts,
strains toward the Brindabellas
as if casting the shadow of clouds on their sides.
Why does the mention of Antrim Road in Irish poetry
seem to evoke so much more than
the name of the road that runs past us here?
Famine and dispersal, certainly, even when viewed
from so far away, the way so much of Canberra lies
compact below us, lending itself to such speculation.
Does that mean such resonance can’t be summoned?
Can Cotter Road never be given the shape in your mouth
that Antrim Road takes in mine?
(After all, Cotter was an Irish settler; and ‘Antrim’ means ‘a ridge’).
Howls from the RSPCA’s kennels,
as if Dante’s Inferno lies just behind the Maccas over there,
suggest not. Suggest
I come back to now, come back
to the equipment pearled in frost, the swing’s
slight movement from the wind’s touch, or perhaps
my daughter kicking off in distraction,
the ranges’ lilac cummerbund in the distance.
The shade sail above us points to rain drifting in
along the river corridor, over the observatory that squats on its hill,
over the glowing brake lights of tiny concrete trucks heading to the outskirts,
over days that are happy that run like a film
coming to the end of its spool
over days that are unhappy turned over
one by one like photos in an album
over this place graced by a name without resonance,
only by time passing
with the sound of a magpie’s wing
cutting the face of a diamond
from the morning’s cold air.
Southword November 2023