Mortality made articulate


Following me, old footprints

Firstly is the bit about feeling older, much
girdled by this early growth of leafage
to offset all that grease of trams and buses

diffused into our dirty urban air.
For what, I ask you, was somebody called our saviour
in the turbulent middle-east (still in trouble,

of course it must be) two long Ks ago?
Light flickered on dwellers in death's dark shadow
yet those turbulent sandy nations truckle on,

just where their ancestors ambled out of Africa
toward the hideogram of history.

Hungry, long-legged in the walnut tree
a falcon pecks away at faceless lumpage,
driftings of down descending: bleakly,

with mortality made articulate
in air at least, I'd say.
Little grey bones lie in the lawn.

They won't be getting older
but we can.


A deceptive calm

Scrambling down the last flank
through prickly-moses or frail
fringes, headhigh bluegums
bent by years of salt bluster,
tussock grass in its bunchings,
dry, uneven, slippery,
aromas in moist gullies.
He knew it all now by heart;
those mountains were his body,
their perfume of musk and rot
could be our past.

Heat, salt: a deceptive calm
reigned on the rolled hills like haze.
Kicking out a shower of stones
an echidna bulldozed fast
fleeing some nameless danger.
One cloud lay on the sea;
decades drifted on those tides
rippled and crimped as a brain.

Caught in a brambletangle creekbed
under leather leaves, over
rapidly washed ellipsoids
there lie the ad hoc remains
of a deserted railway,
tramway rather, rust-raddled
and twisted out of all shape.
It used to bring down timber
to a non-existent pier:
such iron can be called passing.

The point of noon yawns always
out of reach, raw paradise,
and we can't feel the vacuous names
our tongues have laid on our lives
or on this twig-thick shoreline.

Chris Wallace-Crabbe headshotChris Wallace-Crabbe AM is an Australian poet and Emeritus Professor in The Australian Centre, University of Melbourne. He has a distinguished career as poet, essayist, literary critic, teacher, cultural ambassador and advocate for the humanities and creative arts.  

Topic tags: New Australian poems, Chris Wallace-Crabbe



submit a comment

Existing comments

"For what, I ask you, was somebody called our saviour in the turbulent middle-east .... two long Ks ago? Light flickered on dwellers in death's dark shadow." *************************** The Light that flickered was the light of Love. It was kindled in a despairing age when Jesus of Nazareth gathered together the ingredients required for spontaneous universal and selfless love:- The 2 Great Commandments,and the idea that the world was about to end, with every one to be judged on the love they showed to all, especially the poor and needy. If the World was about to end, material goods became worthless, and it was easy to share them with others. But the Love and Good-will this generated was inspirational, and was the light of Europe for those long 2 Ks
Robert Liddy | 29 January 2013

Loved the two poems, Chris and remembered with appreciation how fortunate I was to have had you as a tutor at MU in the early 60s. Often am I reminded of you by Zen teacher Ross Bolleter, musician and teacher, by his similarity of outlook,teaching style and voice modulation. Thanks.
Michael D. Breen | 29 January 2013


Subscribe for more stories like this.

Free sign-up