Dreaming of redemption


Altar Rock

I: Brand Highway North

As angles travel, haystacks refract hectares,
bales become ziggurat temple stones,
sandstone drums for columns never assembled.
Here speaks the international currency of straw,
a coppered steel dialect, whose accent sounds
Devonian here, Australian in Essex.

In Dongara, Morton Bay Figs form the arches,
tracery and trunks of a half-completed nave,
scaffolding removed from all promise and purpose.
North of Badgingarra, hills as dark as sodden moors
beg chapels, a hardy leather pelt stretched tight
over the country's bare, sharp bones; the puncture
of one post and it will rip and spill white sand,
scarecrow in a storm, bleeding straw.

II: Mount Magnet Road East

Further north, the land is prised open, they say,
valleys regurgitated. Mountains bleed into sea,
flesh hung from trees charred by their own shadows
black hands held up against the sun. It may all be true,
for hear now, in the distance, this prophecy: the night's
chandelier, crashing over a black marble table.

So savour these last wheatlands, where slopes carpeted
with golden grain's choral glow still flap and crack
like hot sheets, outcrops burnt back to the blood-red bone,
fired limbs of blackened stone. Here the war has been
refined to contour lines, visitation stories of dearth
and deliverance Jeremiah might have believed;
here is hope, discrete, unspoken, but lightly inscribed
on slopes by slender post and wire, faith in invisible rivers
stripped down to watermarks etched on tablets
between dusty trees.

III: Mullewa

In the deli's dark and sullen sanctuary, tourists
congregate, lured by the promise of everlasting flowers,
buying sour communion wine, while in shuttered shops
and shrouded rooms in every fibro cube the dry town
keeps watch on the rock at its skirt, where Hawes
once dreamt black and white might kneel to rub rough stone
against their cheek, and weep. This lost moment
still stalls the day and haunts the night, this lost chance
to take things further still runs under this skeleton
of a town, a stubborn silver trickle, waiting to be found. 

Graham Kershaw


I like the names, the recitations,
the desert moon, the gait of camels,
the wild men with their beards and honey,

the women with their well-used names,
the olive groves, the stony mountains,
the mystic, intermittent rivers.

I'm scared though of its discontents,
the sound of thunder minus rain,
its liturgies and long divison.

I hear the wisdom in its singing —
despite the tumult of the priests,
their formulae and incantations.

The latter half has calmer paths,
is easier on horseback —
milder hills and more oases.

The dialects of both I find
still buzzing in my ears,
a kind of tinnitus perhaps.

The older on, it's said, is filled
with what the wind subtracts from stone.
Each village, town or city bears

its metaphoric ring.
From palaces to hovels,
everywhere without exception,

the literal is not enough.
There is a background susurration,
mainly heard at dawn.

It moves there as a sort of whisper
not unlike the wind,
a sense of something not yet named.

They offer me their foods:
one half with its prohibitions,
the other with its loaves and fishes.

Their litanies and chronicles
sustain a single note.
The meaning's in the sound alone,

resisting all translation.
Every time I ride there now
the maps seems less familiar.

The risk of vanishing entirely
along with sweat and saddlebags
cannot be ignored

though still at dawn I find myself
riding back across the border,
the sigh of my uncertainties

widening with the light. 

Geoff Page



everything that is was spoken

no other way to light but these hands

I hear the call_____ice river running

smell the border_____smell of it passing

all the names are mine

you're talking to the sky again

clouds round on things, on thought

dug to get to_________somewhere the dark is true
in some head there's still_____anything glints_____we see into

an edge is always shining, cleaves

here's a cast fishing_____flag dredged

the sky is well gated_____hardly a chink

cast off the dice and the venom

this thimble's depth sea
goes up_____with one spark

the coffin grows into a tree

stars alight at my stop

here's the dream_____in which sets sail
love and the springtide_____strangers singing

see ourselves in the river, the mirror we quaff
nothing our own hands raised

it's the future — far as the blue of frayed edges, paws
the other trying to get in

time returns to the clock's shell

to the sea which bore it

time takes the heart in entrails down_____the moon in burlap
___   we swallow all there is of time

from where you have fallen still a way to go
and heaven_____that vanishing coin, speck
blue as it was all those ages back

the dead whom we've loved

in the bones of the soul_____go with us
they do not require_____the silence of prayer
they do not know_____which way we carry

what is it eyes shine with?

some channel where the static's true

in bitter woods_____Pray, Lord. We are near.

a glut of track led_____day blind dice to try

pray to us God_____you might still get through

there has to be some free will left_____might allow creation

flower and stone

as one towards another grown
in nakedness_____water between
so the eye must seek out meaning_____its prey

cliffs beetle brow

so far down in the dream_____day will never get there 

Christopher Lee


1. Contemplation

It's the alcohol that makes me white
the magic of intoxication
suits my dreaming fine
I want to be civilised.
The harder I drink the whiter I get
O how I want to imbibe
like a gentleman
get home to the wife every night.
Working hard for the man
kids don't want to go to school
up at dawn every morning
might stay home on welfare
do a course — certificate IV
teaching something white and airy.

I want God to make me white
and rich and fat
next week we get royalties
as well as welfare cheques.
No more blackeyed payback wives
no more paedophiles
alcohol does not make love
we out here all alone
come in and lose your chains.
Sing and dance wildeyed
in blackout dreams
demand sovereignty.
I want to drink like I want to die.
They put me in their gaols
the back of their divie vans
they beat me good and turn me black
from lack of alcohol.

I see the sound of moonlight
striking water in the night.

2. Metamorphosis

As the white inches from my blood
I become aboriginal
as a matter of evolution I am
culturally changed.
The leaves fall
one day at a time
serenely they lay me naked
in a fourth dimension.
Unentombed and resurrected
God appears within the landscape
becomes country
without any bright colours.
The brightest colour of them all
is blood.

Everything is round
the storylines in circles and cycles
the owners and the owned
are the same thing.
Nobody speaks in straight lines
it is considered rude.
What owns me is round.
If you go from here to there
you should walkabout a bit.
The best hunters know the cycles
of the hunted.
The art
the land itself
which owns me
which caused me
breathes in an out
like a horse's flank.
From day to night
the climate walks around the tides
from where my gods come to speak
into which my dead die.
They are always near
flowing through my veins
as bright as the brightest colour

over which the sea folds
like a shroud. 

Mick Ringiari a.k.a. Patrick McCauley

Graham Kershaw headshotGraham Kershaw (pictured) was awarded the 2012 Blake Poetry Prize for his poem, 'Altar Rock' (above). The judges described the poem as 'marking a place where understanding and forgiveness are oases amidst a maelstrom of doubt, where poetry presents the final word'. The other poems presented here were highly commended by the judges. All the shortlisted poems can be read on the website of the NSW Writers Centre.

This poetry also is included in the Blake Prize Art Exhibition, on display at the S.H. Ervin Gallery, Observatory Hill, Sydney, until 16 December, before touring other states. 


Topic tags: new australian poems, Blake Poetry Prize



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Existing comments

Mick Ringiari's poetry has brought tears to my eyes and a heaviness in my heart. I award it first prize in the Gut Response Category.
glen avard | 13 November 2012

Glen Avard beat me to the punch. I happen to agree with William Wordsworth when he wrote: "poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity." Much pre-modern English language poetry was mainly versification. Mostly it was written for money. Mostly it lacked feeling and emotion. Mostly, I say, because in Palgrave's The Golden Treaury of the best songs & lyrical poems in the English Language from Shakespeare to Larkin I must admit there are a few nuggets worthy of being assessed as golden. After Wordsworth my guide to Poesy was a minor Australian poet, Joseph O'Dwyer, who taught us, with infuriating simplicity: Poetry is what poets write. Verse is what versifiers write. What a wealth of meaning and emotion there is in the sentence: "Nobody speaks in straight lines, it is considered rude."! That to me is sheer poetry - a golden nugget worth mining for. Well done, Mick Ringiari! Your poem may not be included in future updates of Palgrave's Golden Treasury but for me it is one worth downloading and framing and hanging over my computer desk for inspiration and meditation. It is a great poem of a tragic reality.
Uncle Pat | 13 November 2012

Wonderful. Congratulations to Graham Kershaw on his fine work. And I'm very pleased to see Geoff Page's work there too - he's a great analyst of the form of poetry. Well done to all poets here.
Pam | 13 November 2012

Dear Uncle Pat, I usually think your posts are pearls of wisdom but I don't agree with your blanket dismissiveness of pre-modern English poetry as mere "versification" or lacking in feeling. I don't think you can be so doctrinaire. I found the above arrangements hard going. On the contrary, my feelings and approach to the philosophy of poetry may be expressed best by this poem -"versed" as you would put it - I wrote in 2008: O how I long for that land that, swath’d in green And bordered by the deep dark waters of the mere, Doth harbour nothing that is cruèl, cold or mean Nor ever need to wipe away a tear. O give me those valleys grassèd, sweeping, clean Where horses gallop to their hearts’ desire; Where kestrels soar aloft the tranquil scene And homes and hearths are lit by warming fire! And in that place, where live, unfettered, free The trees and animals that civilise our mind, The gorgeous emerald of the woodland, and the lea Shall soothe and salve the eyès of the blind. O how I long for a land all swath’d in green, And bordered by the deep dark waters of the mere, Where on each peak and o’er each sheer ravine The song of eagles’ wings upon the wind is clear! Some call it Tir n’an og, or sometimes Paradise: Some think it an exclusive end reward. I know it though as whence the stars arise Where God in nature truly is restored. Yes, how my heart doth long for perfect peace! Yet here is where our virtue must contend, That harsh and hateful human arrogance might cease For souls to merge in God at journey’s end. (copyright)
STEPHEN KELLETT | 13 November 2012

Thanks for your comment on my comment. My dismissiveness of pre-modern English poetry was not "blanket". It was quantitatively qualified. I wrote "much pre-modern English language poetry" was "mainly versification". I did admit there were some golden nuggets in Palgrave's Golden Treasury. Despite my admiration for Wordsworth's poetry and my being intellectually swayed by his philosophy of poetry I think he wrote a lot of turgid verses. For me the breakaway from versification and the break-through into Modern English Language Poetry came with G M Hopkins and his theory/practice of Sprung Rhythm. Re- your poem on Ireland - thank you for publishing it. Just because it is in verse doesn't mean it can't be a poem. You do "long for a land all swath'd in green". "It takes its origin form emotion recollected in tranquillity" I visited Ireland, my homeland, in 2003. It was an emotionally powerful experience. The most powerful feeling I had in Dublin was despair at the spiritual devastation caused by the Celtic Tiger. I tried to write some poems on different Irish people I met. Alas I lack the skill, as Seamus Heaney's Derry farmers would say, "to put them into a poem."
Uncle Pat | 15 November 2012

Wordless..... at the enormity and history that has made it so .......'it's the alcohol that makes me white....'. Surely no greater indictment of the sin of disenfranchisement need be made. And we baulk at making real the obvious - non-colonisers are real people too. Recognition in the constitution is a Right not a privilege.
hilary | 16 November 2012


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