Spoor of a soul



Meditative on a brown park bench
at the top end of, was it? Hampstead Heath
in a colourful shower of ladybirds
I caught up the poet's canny division:
ways of butterfly, ways of hawk
but how that sliced at an angle across
private polarity in fox and hedgehog,
his version at the unlikely least
native to this ochre land of ours,
whatever earthly ours may mean
and how we jink between polarities.

Evening's extended mattress now,
its burnt orange slumbers all along
the sea's grey sill. Nearer to hand
seven surfers are continuing
to provide their black punctuation,
rescuing waves from silvery repetition.
Inside the no there always remains a yes

and everything depends on yes.


Where soul might

As those furry plumping quinces
hang above grit-grey lanes
and crimson buds erupt all over
the sturdy corner gumtree

our plant world murmurs
ripeness and foison,
those cruel nouns of time
tolling away my cells.
a slithery concept, that.

But at sleep's near edge
I busily ask myself —
redundantly, rather —
where soul might have its home:

Like the golden tumbling
apricots right next door
attending on Christmas,
my body has attained
what another age would
have called a certain age.

Player of life's queer game,
I'd better reach out to catch
the spoor of a soul,
being's fine pith and core.

I'm afraid that's what I'm doing
in the tremulous here and now.


Robert Browning at Bundanon

There's a kookaburra chortling, so I think it's time for tea.
That's a cup in bed for you, then, and another one for me.
We'll have a day devoted to creative enterprise,
you exploring with a paintbrush and, after several tries
I could come up with something: not quite burned out, after all;
might hatch a crafty lyric handling chaos and Man's fall,
but locating this among the valley's kangaroos and cows
with a special spot for wombats.
_____________________________________Around the lower boughs
fantails are finding insects, swallows fossick for their food.
Business bastards keep insisting profit is the only good;
old Galluppi's out of fashion; Philip Glass is all the go,
but any income from our art seems incrementally slow,
poet or painter.
____________________How the Brangus bellow there,
wanting hay forked out for breakfast in the dewy atmosphere.

Who was it, I wonder, first contrived the electric fence
those cattle keep away from? They are not entirely dense.
Nor am I, one keeps on hoping, though absurdly out of date
with a weather-eye for verse-forms, fanciful and intricate.
What'll we do with the mystical, a question for us all
in an age way past King Arthur, Joan of Arc and bold Ben Hall,
when the shadows of religion are like birdcalls in the bush
and mammon jingles loudest. 

________________________________There's a wattlebird now — whoosh!


Stealth, Melbourne

Mid-year's mellowing off-grey days can bring
a ferrous touch, hues and blush to numerous
streetside pin oaks; twiggy fingers are showing through
X-rays of English elm, plumago still winks its blue.

Burnt-orange again, the club's en-tout-cas darkens
while our saurian wattlebird swims across fishily
stitching bough to darkling neighbour bough;
bikes lean onto black iron pickets, hard by.

Moreover, and over and over, the last
four walnuts cling to their naked fretwork
like Christmas baubles done in bleak negative.
But the next morning burns us right back to gold

with nearby touristical balloons dangled from skyhooks.
Weaving or waving at my study window
snaky tendrils of the rampant hardenbergia
prepare to take on their appointed winter purple,

while the newspapers are puffed up
with rough stuff from gambled-on footy codes
coloured with manly energy but
compromised, as usual. 

Chris Wallace-CrabbeChris 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



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Existing comments

Lovely, thanks Chris. Also liked very much your "The Piano Inkpot".
Pam | 08 May 2012

A truly restorative way of starting the working day - thanks for these pieces. They provide the acuity, warmth, command, humour and poignancy we expect and cherish from a master.
Barry G | 08 May 2012

Splendid stuff, Chris - lovely evocations of Bundanon and some pointed chord-striking about the need, as the years pass, 'to catch/the spoor of a soul'.
Brian (Blue) | 08 May 2012


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