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Mekong coconut workers

  • 12 December 2016


Selected poems


Dark stars

After tea, I'd stand on the gravel lanebeside the farm house, look up tothe scattered arguments of the Milky Waystretching across our paddocks south towards Naringal.They were cities in the sky, gatherings of speckled lightgiving shape to the dark that was never far from me.

The lights of other houses two paddocks awayreminded me there were other lives caught out by darkness.When the silence outside the house was infiltratedby the sound of cows pulling at grass, the heavy plodof their hooves, or a snort or twoI was reassured.

Yet when the cows weren't near the houseI'd imagine presences, shapes or shadowsappearing from beneath the cypress trees that toweredaround our house. I'd turn to the glow of the kitchenits yellow walls, smell the smoke from the chimneyand consider these paddocks I called home.

Like the stars that have collapsed into Black Holesthe darkness of the country night was always out there.It lived in my dreams, had become a shadow unfurlingacross paddocks. It was the depthless blackI dropped into during those falling dreams. I kept it at baywith the company of brothers and sisters and laterlearnt to accept it as that space between dusk and dawn.

On winter nights, when the world closed down earlythe darkness was palpable, close and continuous.It was the intimacy of a threat, the anger beneath a voicethe place where violence abandons you. Each nightthe dark returned I looked up to that spray of light,those dark stars pulsating like a galaxy taken fright.



Rollo's Road

A holloway into the pastwe drove cattle on. A roadthat dips into the memoryof a wooden bridge scorched by bushfire.

Sliver of blue skynarrow strip of patched bitumenthreading a line between toweringeucalypts leaning in to kiss each other.

Either side of the treesare the damp spaces of dairy paddocks.Like a lemming, I am pulledto this tunnel of shade, this stretch

of bush to be held in, wanderamongst the ferns, faded Jack Daniel's can,pale scimitar of bone. Is there anythingso intoxicating as a quiet road

that makes a racket within me?Is there anything that a memorycan't hollow, give passage tomoments gone wobbly beneath gum trees.



Coconut workers

Watch the man in his stained shirtbarefoot under the palms.

Adrift from younger workershe manages a rhythm, a cigarette-

dangling-from-the-lip focus.His lined face belies the strength

of his forearms, thrusting each coconutonto a metal spike that is his altar.

Seven days a week he steps up to the spikesplits coconuts with the precision required

to not sever a wristin a country with