Watchman In the Orchard

A roof away

over spare tiles stacked like heaven’s stumps

the big old gum’s galleries are restless

with an easterly off the escarpment,

a newborn galaxy of green fireworks.

Woodchimes clack a reverie against the breeze,

the click of parrots sourcing plums.

Beak down, intent, a scrivener’s index finger,

a currawong probes autumn light like laid sheaves. 

Its stolid derrick kowtows

to tiny packets of emolument under twigs and leaves

strewn like discarded toys around the trunk.

 

Watching from the porch, I wonder

what it would be like

to have that knowledge, that indifference,

sassy as its yellow eye

creasing whole suburbs down along their streets,

the faultline’s bulwark seams

folding inwards into certainty,

centred as a grub.

 

No dream emerging from its soft case

is ever forgotten. Midnight waters

of such sweetness

that to drink them in the neon light’s thin frost

is to secrete them forever.

                                   

So why

does the past eddy like a river

between storehouses gapped like crosswords

a crystal flash in a rose window

a movie projected too slowly,

unjoined between frames?

As if that lad, having stepped so lightly

into the story, was sent to retrieve the arrows

but dawdled, couldn’t make out what they were calling,

and unable to find them,

failed to return.

 

                        And then

my eyes decipher what my heart has already noticed:

                                              

you have entered the room behind me

your shoulder a contour of sunlight’s tiny explosions

its rays a flying buttress of completion.

 

There, that moment —

that must be the gauge, a spirit level

marked off by what is opened or closed,

what is crimped, clenched, burdened

or unfurled, circles in close, bearing outwards

along longitudes hung from the morning moon’s sextant

new coastlines of experience

like bits of string dropped onto ancient maps

 

I will navigate them

 

nomad of the soft cities

digging at time’s dwindling reefs

appealing the drilled stars

unheard as the fruit that falls

in this endless orchard.

Australian Catholic University Poetry Prize Chapbook 2017