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Rumours of thylacines and distant barbarians


Selected poems

The blue deer
'The blue deer is the holder of the book of knowledge
in which every person's life meaning is written.' — Toltec
and if you find him will he tell you
tell you all you wish to know?
you have come far    look at all the shoes worn
words endlessly tumbled out    spilt    bled
into the ear of night
fragrances embraced    many
so many deaths endured
you will want to know in which chapter
you find yourself
now that you are no longer half-way
are well into that dark wood
have stepped upon    have crossed all the bridges
comfort and progress then    build
each breath its citadel
don't find the air futile    never
seek to unlearn your lessons
as for transgressions
how vulnerabilities surrender
for no-one is esteemed atop
a black mountain at midnight
in the black heart of winter
when the wind is brittle
and oh so bitter
but look
you are not alone    as far as eye
can see    if it could see
so many others    all the others
atop their own mountains
inexplicable martyrdoms
no dome of faith    no spire of reason
to save either them    or you
find the potent little god
holding open that book
after stone in water
will you dare look?    after all
this old story-teller
antlered fibber    embroiderer
how many chapters will he give you?
how in the end any difference
from one meaning to its siblings?
cousins all    hoard up all your questions
fling them north    hurl them south
into the great face that sees all
suffers all
yet has no mouth
bark conceals the inner life
tree becoming time
branches making suburbs of space
but the naked skin
duned pale angry weathered
canvas hair-forested
or with bald poles
old ridges scars disappointments
oh all the opportunities missed
crushed by star cyclones
chained god in your chest
take this
poultice of words    press
against the wounds and cuts
the lines the blemishes places kissed
rest this gently
on all the hurts and regrets
press and press and press
until all is healed
time itself forgets
under this caress this care
and if it does so why should not you?
press and press and press
Perth 2016
'She seemed to have been everywhere — and even to Perth'
— Louis Nowra
Here in this weather-beleaguered outpost
there are so many rumours
thylacines    panthers    wagyls
even that in the distant east
are barbarians perhaps even those
who were once thought to be
a sort of solution    but separating
deserts might as well be galaxies
and we are self-contained
and even like those theoretical others
have our contentments    blue sky
blue sea and even now the sun's
great wintery eye    hidden as we are
however we hold our heads high
perhaps would not be ashamed
one day to be discovered ...
Seeing the moon
To see the moon
to become the moon
you will have to go outside
leave your space-pod room
knock on night's door    open it
see where night's light source rides
like some old commander in glory
climbing to the apex of darkness
while every leaf near you
is dreaming it    coated in it
the trees shiver and shimmy
while you walk naked
covered with moonlight    veiled
drenched with moonfragrance
crazy and privileged    safe
as the loon in starry befuddlement
everything else shadow    smiling ebony
and how the cold delights you
the ground against your feet
almost a reality
and the heat that might caress the moon
is instead held visible    transfixed
up there like a frozen
and impotent sun    a wordless tune.
To speak in many tongues
To travel in other tongues
into the history the mother-
and fatherhood of others
to write poetry in a thousand
languages. To find
in the strange uncoiling syllables
to find in the maze of accent
a hint of another truth
to excavate the labyrinths
to know the slang
of Linear B and all the old
Etruscan jokes —
to stroll the open road
reading all the signs
and to reach into the bright places
of so many other minds.


Shane McCauleyShane McCauley was born in England but has spent most of his life in Perth. He has been a lecturer with TAFE and local universities, and has published over a thousand poems in national and overseas journals. He has had eight books of poetry published, most recently Trickster (Walleah Press, 2015). He enjoys conducting poetry workshops for the OOTA Writers' Group at the Fremantle Arts Centre.

Topic tags: Shane McCauley, Poetry, Perth



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