Submission to the elements



Selected poems



Drum beats 

'feel the beating

of the hearts gathered

in the hollow of the drum.'

— 'Message Sticks': Josephine Bacon



In the quiet darkness

between the rain

scudding through,

they say destructive winds,

how does that look in

the dark, the threshing

and the flailing,

submission to the elements?


Winter fronts roll through,

we have had our tongues out

for rain, genuflected

in case it may have helped,

and now another scud

rattling on the tin roof,

gutters run over like a

gushing bereavement.


There is foment out there

in 24/7 land, alienation, no

sense of understanding,

a disconnect, not like us

who traipse through newly

wet paddocks, slushing, mudding,

or kick up dust and stones

in summer stillness, we can

feel the pulse, the earth is a

drum across which we walk

respectfully, know how to make

it reverberate, read it with

our bare feet, in our heartbeats.


We have been taught the rhythms,

know how to call the next valley,

and out here in Country, can call

up boiling clouds to give succor,

to wet and tighten the skin of the

drum, so we can sing and dance again.



Space oddity

'Busy old foole, unruly Sunne,

Why dost thou thus'

— Donne: 'The Sunne Rising'


Through the wide glass eyes

of the silent space swimming station,

its orbit defined by swooping

loops of loose gravity,

omniscient above the winking earth,

blue earth, swollen image, Christmas

bauble of temptation and beauty,

suns and moons calling the divisions

of day and night, in accelerated

snatches of reality, pictures of sleep,

memories of sleep, sleeplessness,

beams of light so strong, eclipses

and clouds all creating a life

without context and reference

points, where gravity gives,

and takes away any grasp of

firmament, toe hooks on

the base plate to give a sense

of stability, grip of reality, where

standing fast for a few moments,

reminds us what it is to get a hold,

to be erect and standing fast,

gives a sense of humanity.


David may have sung his way

through an imaginary, rotating,

hovering world of invisible tension,

Chris Hadfield lived out the dream,

floating guitar in hand, became one

of the stars for orbiting, the haunting

melody rotating with the suns and

moons, that divide time, reality,

and the words of the song echo

in extremis as they begin

their journey

to the end of somewhere,


in the theoretical lenscape

of infinity, with beeps, light rays,

light years, with no reference points

except those you thought you knew

before you let go and trusted the

boosters and the technicians at

ground control, who may by now

be trapped in the cobwebs of history,

be dead in the other time from which

you were released at take-off.



When the man comes 

'The old cormorant keeper —

I haven't seen him

this year'

— Buson


Seasons and events roll out

in a long pattern, like the way

the wet comes across Country,

trickling down waterways, a

presence unannounced, as it

is soaked up during its long

passage down the dry stream

bed, the red earth darkening,

a light hushing, gushing sound,

and although you might have

smelt the distant rain on the

breeze, seen distant storms,

now you have your thoughts

and prayers confirmed in the

spread of water crossing

the country as the vanguard

of the next season.


When trickle becomes flood

you remember the absence of

water, sustenance, realise what

you have denied, or forgotten.


When dust is raised on the horizon,

you know your neighbors have begun

their annual migration of lean and

hungry stock, or it might be your

shearers coming back to scarf

the red wool from the sheep you

should have already corralled.


Ibis, Pelicans, Black Swans,

the small migratory birds, waders,

other intrepid friends, are punctuation

marks, a fluid sense of demarcation

of the time of year. You envy their

pairing for life, memory that brings

them back, each year, with certitude,

on time and in season.


There is reassurance when swallows

gather in large numbers and begin

their parliamentary session, bobbing

and balancing on the wires in

perpetual motion, affirming plans

and old routes.


If you had the lakes and ponds for

the cormorants, you might have

had the experience, cracked the code,

watched its snake head dive deep

to bring up sweet fish. But you do

not have the water, that is why

the cormorant keeper does not come,

yet you miss the old man, with his

birds, the water magician who strides

out of your dreams at his own time of

year. If he does not appear on the horizon,

his bent silhouette against the evening

light, is this a beginning, or an end,

some kind of portent?



Heron in the tree

'My old man's ears —

Summer rain

Gurgling down the drainpipe.'

 — Yusa Busan


A rest, a vantage point,

the old dry skeleton jarrah,

weathered, mostly dismasted,

vibrating in the Autumn wind

and the dry paddocks stretch out

across the prickly heat to the ocean,

and I can scan the countryside,

feet held fast, motionless as a dead

branch, looking for a mate,

head twisting, no body movement,

and I look asleep, pre-occupied,

still as,

waiting for my turn to gently arch

my back and then send-off,

a descent across the water course,

frog chorus in high pitched frenzy'

unwittingly calling for my attention,

as other hungry birds queue up for

my leaving.


I will cast my mantle, the feathers

swirling in the paddock, and in my

nudity there will be a purity of spirit,

I will still be one of the enigmatic,

statuesque, etched against the bright light,

watching urgent cormorants ducking and

diving in the receding dark pool, home

of the black marron, and I will glide in

and steal their limelight, cast them aside,

whetting my sharp beak on the hard wood,

making warfare elegant, obsidian blade

beak scything at the air.


I am the keeper, no idea for the endgame,

just to rule the roost at will, looking out

at horizons that stretch, open up as I ascend

with discretion on the warm air, horizons

that stretch even further, never ending in

the long days of migration, where the line

edge opens ever further,

the elusive mystery of infinity.




Tony LondonTony London has had poetry published in various literary journals and newspapers and broadcast on the ABC. He has worked for 12 years as a self-funded volunteer for Tibetans in India. His book on the Tibetan diaspora, High Hopes, was commissioned and published by the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, in Dharamsala, India, last year.

Topic tags: Tony London, poetry



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Existing comments

A glorious blessing today, thanks.
Peter Goers | 05 June 2018

Oh, Tony, what a beautiful voice! Say more...
Joan Seymour | 06 June 2018

Now that's poetry!
john frawley | 07 June 2018

None of Hopkins's " . . . nor can foot feel, being shod" about these offerings, Tony. Thank you.
John | 08 June 2018


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