The sweet, potent scent of bacon


Via Anglesea

– for Simon, Nicholas & James

Waking to pungent country air
in unfamiliar country — yawning,
scuffing verandah-boards
with numb, chill-blunted toes —
prising a stiff bath-towel loose
from a rank of luminous pennons
adorning the verandah rail.
And out beyond the verandah,
beyond a near fence-line,
cattle and kangaroos graze icy grass
and a grey sky winces
with the first cold light of dawn.
From beyond a stand of scrub
the domestic world insists —
the churr of early traffic,
elusive enough that it might yet be
the celestial hum of legend —
the shifting of the spheres.
And in a further window
a light snaps on to the slow sounds
of life stirring within. And soon
the sweet, potent scent of bacon
rouses me from the stillness
and the senses' distillation.

Flotsam at Gibson’s Steps

– for Simon, Nicholas & James

A stone-hewn stair and slatted, salt-encrusted decking
lower us by stages to the sand —
the cliff-face shouldering us out over the swell.
In one place run-off wrinkles the scarp —
the stone gone mossy, sedge-ripe and lurid green
and plunging tendrils of sodden vine.
And through a mist cold rain comes on,
lighting the skin — the sensation
seared by a burring, blustering wind.
We pucker the sand: our four sets of footprints
blurring with the shuffle of other feet,
blearing where we err toward the tide.
The beach ends, subsumed again where cliff and surf collide,
where a stone-stack has toppled,
jagged its head against the cliff and tumbled
into a mass of mottled stone and rubble.
We take our last photos perched atop the wreckage —
in triumph. And turning back along the beach
we pause to kick and wonder at wooden flotsam
braided by a hash of kelp. Spars, beams —
sea-damp, phosphorescent and slick —
becoming bone beneath the teething sand.

Summer Dam

Long weeks, its eye crusts over,
squinting hard against

the noondays' aching light —
by late-December, the hollow socket

is plated shut by scales of yellow silt.
The dust whispers on.

Muzzling cattle dribble strings
of hot saliva — their bellowing

echoing on into the haze.
A mob of kangaroos

hammers off across the paddock
in a squall of chirring locusts —

riding the shoals of brittle grass,
breasting them like waves.

When the Rain Comes On

When the rain comes on it is sudden and heavy
and we are caught in open ground. Running on
across the hay-trash, we shelter beneath

a fire-gutted blue-gum — the only vegetation
on this side of the paddock — to wait
for the downpour to pass. Long since seared,

the tree still squeezes up a thin flock of foliage,
its torso charcoal-brittle in parts — disfigured —
contorting upward in one sheer exertion

from a stubble of spectral flames. In childhood days
we played here — where grey, pared roots
pool dung and rain. And still, the trunk

worn smooth — waist-high — and tallow-roan
by generations of chafing, lice-ridden cattle —
honing old wood to grub-knotted bone.

Thom SullivanThom Sullivan is a 26-year-old recent Arts/Law graduate and poet who lives in the Adelaide Hills.



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Existing comments

Good stuff, Thom. Sharp sense of place, making the nostrils quiver.
peter matheson | 13 May 2008

Thom - Love the poems. I like the sinuous Aussie stuff, and your facility with language is impressive.

Favorite lines:

From beyond a stand of scrub
the domestic world insists —
the churr of early traffic,
elusive enough that it might yet be
the celestial hum of legend —
the shifting of the spheres.

Look forward to reading some more of your work.

John Fitzsimmons | 19 May 2008

Thanks for the poems. Love the imagery in 'Summer Dam', especially:

'riding the shoals of brittle grass,
breasting them like waves.'

Beautiful & vivid. Thanks.
Cathy Altmann | 20 May 2008


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