…lucky to be leafless:
Deciduous reminder to let go.
(Eugene Peterson, “Blessed are the poor in spirit”)
Lost in auto-pilot, I find myself,
false turn on false turn, circling in
this airport country where lanes diverge to let
the suitcase-laden taxi-bound
find ways to cities, and ways away.
A loop, and again I am where
I more or less should be: a road.
Yet airport, out of place, lingers in memory,
and just above
the warehouse-horizon hovers
a plane, a reminder, lest
in all my circling I forget.
Trucks are bound where their cargo is bound;
my cargo’s built for no road,
only sky. And so this day,
let transit pierce the veil;
amidst all of this,
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.
Essendon is drenched today. On Albion
And Buckley where my Granddad learnt to walk,
To talk, lies last night’s deluge in puddles,
In screen of watery sheen, while vermillion
Morning climbs the eastern sky. When we talk
Of heritage, does it sit in huddles
Like these? old buildings nestled in new ones
And the streets changing names, permanent as chalk,
Captured somewhere in memories like muddles?
Sometimes, when brain’s geography failed,
He fancied himself back on these streets,
And spoke of St Thomas’s where he’d been hailed
As Stupid Stuart. What memory repeats
Is mystery; beneath rainy road is soil
That, pre-Alzheimer’s, Granddad learnt to toil.
Flights delay; schedules must be rearranged.
Pause in the park; there is nothing else nearby;
though sickness and tiredness lag our legs
and this message must be read, that query returned.
All the dead time of the week, all these fragmented moments –
purpose evades when we have no control.
Yet moments ripple when we detour through trees
to watch Creator’s joy in the brilliant green
of a duck’s hidden wing.
The Antarctic wakes us with its morning missive blowing.
Swaddled and bubbling, children shiver across the road.
Crossing guard, I open my smile,
bouncing frozen legs to warm them.
To cross the road like a child, I
must race and look not to the side.
What winter brings will soon be known;
the sun still shares the sky.
No other time of day can you sit still,
Here schedules mean nothing.
You may be late; that cannot be stopped.
Yet you can stop. You can look
at clumps of grass and broccoli gums
in wetlands and wonder how they looked
before this road was even thought.
You can watch
the faces as the windows pass
(no other time of day will you
see so many lives entwine).
Invent their stories.
Stop and know your own.
Hold last night’s mess in your hands
as you steer today’s wheel.
Consider the day.
Pluck your nose hair.
Watch birds fly back and forth in sequence
and fancy them a wind-blown sheet.
Name the clouds with metaphors
(a waterfall, a needle,
a walrus’s moustache).
Scan the forgotten gorges of your city and learn
how distances must be covered to move
to where you want to be.
Trace the sun as it chases the trees.
Learn all the textures of its light.
Watch the evening drape the sky.
Prise open this day’s grace.
Keilor-bound at the wheel,
a man plucks his middle brow over the hill.
Trucks speak in whistling brakes;
cars speak in blinkers;
billboards speak in covered-up breaths
and we, doubting ourselves, tremble forth.
Across gorges and bridges, organ-pipes hum
in the silent chorale of a wasted commute.
Gold glints through gum-trees;
grace glints in mirrors.
Wake up –
white, blue and dog collar carry this same weight
and glory hangs latent over the day.
A willy wagtail, was it?
Perhaps, but no time to check What Bird Is That?
as it wags its way through lanes at lights,
a truck here turning, there a foot
I have seen its tail – proud tuft of feathers –
pluckily braving the afternoon rush,
and seen it hover, tentative,
just above Old Geelong Road,
as though not quite prepared to fly.
Sometimes it slips
beneath my sight, and then
it darts, as though to dare the traffic.
None destroy it, yet most – unaware –
continue changing lanes as they
would on any normal Friday.
Stationary, I see its tail
greet the traffic, weekend-bound;
such smallness seems almost defiant here.
Is grace defenceless as we drive?
No: cars resume, as green returns,
yet willy wags the tail, and faith
skips the traffic’s plight.