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Ormiston Gorge revelation

  • 20 January 2020
  Selected poems


Paris Theatre, a vignette

Pink sharp Paris, antic clown on Liverpool and Wentworth

Festooned with spangled flags and vaudeville shrieks

Your falsetto smile turned on nightly a show time

Of light bulb teeth strung out across peeling stucco cheeks.


Under art deco parapets drawn by Walter Burley Griffin

You sat, a leaky pontoon of kulturkampf and queer anarchy

Once loosed a radfem brigade sans brassière in proud array

Arms locked, traffic stopped they smashed the patriarchy.


In the dress circle silent Spanish cinema all blood beehive tragic

Plonked by the box office below was Boofhead pop art magic;

Plays pulled off disappearing tricks with old time beliefs

Till broadened minds slipped out of skulls giddy with relief.


Across the street the Emden gun mounted on fallen sailors

Takes aim at the pierced nipple and leather strap places;

Its barrel is shrapnel-nicked, the weapon has been shot!

One day none will hit or hurt or cower before jailors.


Now you are missing like Jill Gamblin and Chris Flannery

Relegated by the serpentine marble of the smooth Connaught

A new order spire in praise of celebrity and what can be bought;

Gravity is stood up to goosestep over utopian geometry.




Ormiston Gorge Revelation Cycle 1985

Wheels within wheels reeling in stubborn space

Spokes scythe blond stubble along highway shoulder;

Quartzite walls open and the cliffs whisper

'The Messenger you seek suddenly appears

Who will endure that coming furnace day?'


Rest in late afternoon silence, the vision quest in flight

Red ramparts attenuate to pink mauve in muted light;

Only gold could slake the Depression fever of Lewis Lasseter

Lead to an alchemy of empty jam tins and broken beer bottles

Fibula and femur disjoint, wrecked on iron pyrite reefs.


Eucalyptus papuana may prefigure the coming of Europeans

Ghost gums arc in the canyon like neurones firing manic flesh;

Everything bends to albino in this city of pressure and dust

Thirst-flogged corkwood branch twisted to gnarly lightning.


MacDonnell Range uncoils to buttress the immense blue

Sky stooping to raise the broken, spinning world;

N'Dhala Gorge is crusted in grey lichen and yellow ochre

Hugh River is a red-tail black cockatoo preening place.


At Ellery Big Hole bloodwood budcaps open at dawn

Flotsam anther oracle sailing on mica-fleck schist glitter

Slow yawn of froth retraces glacial scouring, stones murmur

'Woe to those who put hard for soft, sweet for bitter'.


Still, alone, far from mad-crowd coast humidity

Clairvoyant light desiccates then resolves memory;

Rwetyepme reclines, Albert Namatjira's purple nude

Fecund belly, round thighs drawn up against the breeze —

Mount Sonder is lying down in ruby dock and prickly acacia.


The gorge breaches here, striped spine undulate in desert sand

Pied butcher