I plant my feet
in steep leaf mould
to let go
I lick the soil
in the air; a mixture
of oxygen, water
and a slit of sunlight
I zigzag like ground locals
this place asks for instincts
lichen give directions
the mug, sleep-sack, bread
and spuds slice into my shoulder
heavier than thoughts
It’s been great committing to writing the Stinson series earlier this year. I’ve had a bit of a break and now working on other things. This one seems to hang up there in Lamington National Park so I just wanted to share it. I hope to return to all the Stinson poems again one day. They need plenty of editing and I want to finish the series and get the two blokes down off the mountain. Thanks to those who have read and shared your thoughts along the way. It’s been very encouraging. Andrew
Their sunken eyes stare
back at me, bodies motionless
and propped against the charred remains
of their flight. The older one leans forward
and stretches out an arm. Shake hands.
It’s like grasping a raw piece of meat.
You poor bastards.
I could’ve been here a week ago.
The two of them watch themselves
run down my cheek and fall from my face.
My hands shake. I try to hide my thoughts
but they can read them.
What’s in the bag?
How about boiling the billy?
It’s routine; the movements
of building a fire and brewing tea
that fight the uselessness of shock.
I remember to breathe, collect what I’m doing here
from the damp forest floor, make plans
to get these guys out of here.
What’s happening in the fifth Test?
John sort of smiles as he asks,
his leg lies out in front of him
open and swelling with maggots.
There’s a gap in the trees. Long splinters
of red gum point to heaven. Below, a wing
torn off from the charred skeleton
of pipes that lie in the tangle of rainforest,
buckled propeller blades are screamed back
and the dead still slumped in their seats. I hold a vine,
and stand trying to keep the thing from me. Two days
searching, and now, unprepared to find it,
through the unclean air, their voices
call again, shake me out of my horror and cold skin.
too heavy for air,
between cathedral roots
of a black booyong, wing bent back,
floating in leaves, it waits
to sink into earth
as the way it stood, in suit jacket – the piercing
yellow eye, closed, offering
itself to the forest workers
who will massage
everything back to soil
I’m still working on the Stinson series of poems. It has been such an interesting exercise, working with historical facts and biographical details from Bernard O’Rielley. I’ve been struggling to get Bernard near the plane, so I’ve spent some time on rainforest pieces relating to the area of Lamington National Park, where the stinson crashed.
How soon did you arrive
after this giant beech fell
and pulled down a hole
in the ceiling?
You scramble for light
on a rotting forest floor. From one hundred
meters you stretch tendrils to climb
into the canopy with your backward facing
thorns. Why do you exist lawyer
vine? What purpose? Look, my throat
is jagged sideways, your necklace of needle hooks
rip at my skin, but even as I step back and perform
a delicate pincer removal, you curl another
round my back and down my arm, grab my
pant leg. I bend down to pick you off
and again you are holding my hat.
Hands spin the map
to turn the ridge north. An identical
twin of the last tangled north
running ridge. It is like
a fog; no sun, no break
in trees, no view, I climb a fig. It is
one o’clock, five hours dropping
into gorges, lantana climb
and lawyer vine across the top, five hours
since I saw that one burnt tree.
‘Coo-eee’ A human voice
Must be another local
with the same idea
to scratch around
for an airplane. Better not
respond, confuse the poor
cocky. He is two tangled
north running ridges to the west.
Where I’m going anyway. Company
will be nice.
Out of the dust in cameron corner
the border dashes a straight
line for the coast. Then,
leaps off the 29th parallel
to swim upstream, for rivers should
be shared. It bends and twists
until it climbs out to traverse the great
dividing range. A dotted line
must be its own guide. So it wanders
from peak to saddle to granite
dome, skirting the base of wedding cake
shaped cliffs. It is a roller coaster hike and
before it jumps
into waves at point danger
it must scramble the subtropical
ridge of the tweed escarpment,
the inside rim of an extinct volcano
still gazing at its own belly warning.
8am on Mt Throakban
waiting for cloud to part,
to catch a glimpse
of his pencil line
burnt tree on a ridge
his heart rate
on the border
Sleep doesn’t fall
for the night
has its own level;
screeching vines, tightly
packed fur, lost in claws,
a tone of howls
clouds swoop, pour a drink
the size of a droplet for every leaf,
log, black spot hiss on red ember.
It drips like a light doze
before dawn, broken by a great owl
who has finished its search. Bernie
roasts an onion
then continues his search
for broken wings.