…rediscovering, room by room, what it was that I first learned there about how high, how wide the world is, how one space opens into another…
(David Malouf, 12 Edmondstone Street)
How many of my dreams go to this place?
Always the same Queenslander balconies
where I wander over those drooping eaves
in search of silent, sleeping days of grace.
What do I find there? Memory’s faint trace,
nestled somewhere in the comfort of leaves,
world always higher than my gaze believes.
I must look up always to see Your face,
so dreams look up: to canopy, to farm
atop a hill, a volcanic red dome…
When I return here with my wife, we find
the colours that I know, the trilling sound
of butcherbird above our heads, yet mind
always says, “Climb up. This is still not the ground.”
Some wandered in deserts; I strayed
Among Antarctic beeches and Bunya pine,
Silver ferns and blood red soil, where I made
Kingdoms and mountains from my trampoline.
Some languished at sea; I saw an ocean
Outside my window when the Easter rains
Flooded the side path, and gazed at the scene
In raptured delight. I frittered hours
On the back garden wall; others wailed.
My haven-home moved with me; others lost
Home with house and place. Love never failed
My nomad days; yet love carries a cost.
It demands I reach out as I am held,
And make new home where the world has repelled.
Did you know that Melbourne has a Brooklyn?
Mostly factories, but behind the freeway
Nestled amidst houses there’s a church, in
Low-ecclesiastic cream brick. Today
On my way to work I saw it, vacant
Being Wednesday. But on Sunday there’s family.
And I smelt the Spotswood Vegemite plant
With its playful chimneys; a child might be
Filled with yeasty dreams to live there, growing
Up on that street where happiness ferments.
My first home was a tambourine, singing
Its jingling sounds in south Queensland silence.
So I’ll write here for these other unknown homes,
For everywhere that’s never had a poem.
One of the stranger questions for me to be asked is, “Where do you come from?” Depending on which part of my semi-nomadic childhood is being engaged at the time, answers to that question can vary greatly. Do I say: Ballarat, where I was born, southern Queensland, where I went to Primary School, West Gippsland, where I went to Secondary School, or Melbourne, where I moved for University and have now lived for 12 years? The last week, I have been revisiting my southern Queensland childhood with my family. Today we went back to Mt Tamborine, the small town at the northern end of the Gold Coast Hinterland where I lived from ages 1 to 7, and, unsurprisingly, it brought back many memories of who I was as a child and realisations of how it shaped the adult I have become. Today’s poem reflects in a way on that, and comes accompanied with a photograph from my first school.
The grass grows as you watch it;
the soil explodes
with volcanic past, rich red
The trees bloom: now pink, now green,
the seasons change in shades
and incremental tones, the light
dappled in the afternoon.
Palm trees sit amongst the ferns
imagine in the trunks and bowers
of beeches, cedars,
faces of the past, of kings
and poets, men
with dreams in eyes, their mouths
full of thought and
full of life. The soil explodes
with volcanic past;
the grass grows as you watch it. I
explode with life
ahead of me; beneath my feet,
the rich, deep earth