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Learning to sail both ways

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Graham Kershaw |  11 February 2013


Don't you seek a centre,
an object of devotion?
Don't you seek a primal source of light?
In the evening, on verandahs,
in the dark, in the rain,
don't you gawp like a fool
at the moon on the grass?
Don't you think of your lover,
don't you think of your home?
Don't you go inside quickly
and drink yourself blind?
Don't you?
Don't you?


Northern song

If ever I drove north again
It would be to find my father
I'd have to hear his voice up there
To justify the miles

I'm losing him in measures
He doesn't know my name
Doesn't know the life we lived
Just winks at me and smiles

I lose a little weight each day
My voice is not my own
I do not know the face I shave
Its blemishes and wiles

So if I drove back north again
And pulled up in that street
I'd want to hear the old man's name
To justify the miles

I was born up there by accident
Now he's going the same way
I feel like going north again
To justify the miles


Whistling woman

I passed a woman on the moors
walking into a frantic wind,
thin inside her lacquered mac,
carrying plastic shopping bags
which rattled, manic, as I passed.

Above this racket, I thought
I heard her whistling. The wind
was lightening her step, not
holding her back; the harder
it blew, the more it lifted her.

She'd learnt to do that, somewhere
it was written plain in the history
of her narrow face and frame:
the method in crazy grace.
She'd learnt to sail both ways. 


Wheatbelt trinity

On the wrong side of the street,
too far from shops and shade,
three yellow benches bake on concrete plinths.
On a Sunday morning you can hear silence
sleeping there, between the trucks and crows,
floating flocks of pink and greys,
maybe the squeaking sneakers of a shopper or two,
silence is snoring on a hot metal bed,
homeless again.

The railway station is a museum these days
and there's an old neon star stranded
on a tower outside like a high-water mark,
but no-one remembers why and it never lights up.
No-one would notice if it did.
Everything's lonely: the fences, paths,
lampposts and bins lining the long way to All Saints'.
The heat, the light and the silence
are our trinity now.

Something like a threatened species
lurks amongst rocks and hard-leaved trees;
it'll blow us all away one day, the tourists say,
that's the smell they like, flirting with despair
on cut-price holidays, that's what's in the hearts
of all those lost city types: the stench of infinity
drowning a failed experiment.
That's the scent they follow.
Nothing they like better.

Well, they can buy it, if they like.
We'll take their money.
We know the land's power to hurt us is fading,
every summer, every drought. This is our secret now,
and we're not afraid to feel the power inside,
this harmony with the land's own artesian purpose
rising under us, stronger, darker,
longer, every summer, blossoming
into salt, every time we surrender.

Easter Sunday

Graham Kershaw headshotGraham Kershaw is the author of The Home Crowd & Dovetail Road (Fremantle Press), editor of Dark Diamonds: poems from the south coast of Western Australia (Hallowell Press) and winner of the 2012 Blake Poetry Prize. 


Graham Kershaw

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Submitted comments

WOW- the beautiful power of words.

pamela 15 February 2013

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