Song Of The Elk River

Delightful kayak,
Slender vessels of joy!
Although the river rages,
In ribs of driftwood
We’re delivered safely
Over ice-cold rapids and
Through the traps
Of countless ages,
Whitehorse-west and
North of thawed
Townships where
At torpor’s end
Aubading lumberjacks
Sing with hair of the dog
Of a haunting elk,
Its chimeric proportions
Known from Manitoba
To islands beyond
The frozen shelf,
And where the great
Mackenzie roars
We roar with little
Echoes back from our
Purified alveoli.
We reached the launch
By chartered flight,
Land of caribou herds,
Mosquitos rule
The endless night;
We shared the aurora
And an insect bite.

Days at one with the rocks
Rampaged by torrents,
Branches and crags
And this great river
Blend all the same,
There’s no distinction as
The foam fizzes and spits
At paddles and rig,
A whirlpool’s teeth
Sprayed the wherry
Where precursors
Of the Łutselk’e once
For pike and burbot
Fished, long before
The European explorers
Hired scouts to forage
For exportable coal
And a chieftain’s wife.

Our bodies were given
As blessings to the water,
The force of the river
Steals our breath as a
Payment for sensing
The riverbed’s soul.
Submerged and turned
In unison, my thoughts
Under the surface
Roll towards the Aleutian
Baidarka, inexplicably,
The scent of seal-fur
In the nineteenth century,
Pursued by light rains
And the hunger of huskies,
We come up for air
And in time the waters
Quietened, it’s an
Imperceptible shift,
As if the river
Did not so much lose
The argument, but is
Attuned to the level
Of cloudberries and
Lilacs, into still waters
We steered, a lagoon,
And there on the shore
We fleetingly caught sight
Of that wonderful monarch,
King of Bugle-Calls
And bull-thistles,
Eyes as bright in
Their patronage
As unearthed lazulite
Lifted up to the bright
Limelight sun from
Mines much further away,
With vestigial tusks
And antlers as wide
As prayers from a Trappist.

That mythical elk,
Unwinnable prize of
The lumberjacks song –
Their drunk serenades,
For not before long
Evening is tidal
Many moons behind us.
Blind to our surprise
Encounter with spirits
And garlands and nectar,
It would soon be time
For the touring company’s
de Havilland turboprop
To rendezvous
On the nude strip of
Southern plains,
And we would not have sight
Of that magnificent emblem
For more than a minute
Nor ever again.
We rubbed tired eyes
As the flight surpassed
The days and nights,
Into sunsets we flew
Like two sea-eagles
Pregnant with conjecture,
Your head on my shoulder
And in the eyes of our mind
The Song of the Elk
And the language of pine.

The Traps

Within wars weft, lifetimes before,
The traps of my self were set;
Bearded sappers breached the shore
Where future selves I met.

I surrendered myself without fuss;
The ingenious tools of men!
Colonels, handlebar-moustached,
Still sing of the clamps on my pen.

Clamps with jaws and razor teeth
My pen-holding hand ensnare,
Poisoned punjis shape a wreath,
My soul is pierced and bare.

Confidence and care suppressed
By granite rocks atop a stick,
Man-made methods, liver-pressed,
I watched the other authors tick.

Pelagic scenes the sappers reach
Where I was meant to live,
But mines entrenched along the beach
I cannot now forgive.

Tenth Sonnet

To any sons thriving without Dads around,
For any sons finding their Fathers curtailed,
If minds to paternity had they bound,
This poem’s the sorrow they should have mailed.
Don’t traduce, you’ll reduce future power
From the weakness deep in their fleeting heart;
Wordings within time’s woodland and bower,
All’s born anew, your chance to re-start.
Understand now, as it’s written in acorns
Formed from dead oaks, beyond golden sokes cropped,
Less are the heroes, more troubled by thorns,
Better ahead, than before the yoke dropped.
Settle their debtors within and there’s peace,
Unfurled from success, all debts will then cease.

Ninth Sonnet

Less the requirement for tablet or shed,
Poetry’s gardens are seeds in your head;
Daily distractions will chatter and chase,
All their dull efforts, one rhyme will replace.
Minutiae delights, heaven’s your ceiling,
Don’t hide from your self, hardships revealing;
You don’t need a war for a war poetess,
Injustice and conflict sow your success.
Your heroes don’t live in scripts or a screen,
Your heroes prevail inside you unseen;
Don’t over-bake, or burn with keen edits,
Don’t wait for their praise, the obverse discredits.
More words you’ll intuit, let the free world fight,
Follow terms for your self, and freely write!

Half-Life

Even now, I remember well the half-hatched ordeals
Of that autumnal evening; beginning not with
Someone’s finding of the student,
(Not a friend, but a caretaker or cleaner),

And then the conjectures revolving into rumours,
Around the cold corridors of dormitories;
And again, the next day, nameless officers confirm and
Light up a truth which quickly dissolves

Like a tooth in a tumour, or a blinking eye
In the dark damp womb of our creations. Self-stopped
Like half a clock at the 19th hour,
Nothing more to absorb, confused, alone.

It did not begin when some other freshers planted candles
With a different future’s blossom, some flowers, some cards
Expressing half-life-sorrows, blocks of bewilderment
For a young man they neither addressed nor uncovered.

Twenty-two years have now slipped through that noose,
Twenty-two years of what-ifs and the bruises and confusion
Which do not diminish in those poor parental hearts,
A dominion where dear grandchildren are not born,

Where the extremities of life contract and reduce,
Where no one cries from their jaws for sadder times and joys,
Where a disease tore into graduation photographs and
Glasses of champagne once filled, left altogether untouched;

A thesis which unlocked the shift and pulleys of the universe
Unpublished; and an unmarried wife who wed her lesser wish,
(Died ten years later at his hands, discovered there in plastic bags
By tracker dogs, over the hills at Nightingale Woods).

Decades later, a specific chair was not moved into
A specific space at a celebration of alumni as they gobble port
And profiteroles in prestigious campus chambers,
Because no one there remembered, despite those dreams

Which govern and gnaw, without a name there is no lore,
They shifted on their feet, exchanging nouns and verbs,
They noticed people who whetted their mouths
Eating grapes and canapes in shades of green and purple.

No, it started many lives before, when someone somewhere
Did not say a vital word, a necessary term, a contract with Life
Left unassigned, unrehearsed, over and over until unlearnt.
Outside, Australia is burning.

And so we hurtle on, now unrepentant exiles of that time,
Post-internet, where anything seems accessible,
We stand still in illusions of luminous currents,
In the vacuum of chronically forgetful republics.

Driving Across A Bridge, Somewhere in California

The sea is constant.
Only it is human to change
And shift, the tide of a person

Plays out in our words,
How we move, and
When we live.

Yet all else is true to
Their forms,
Unwavering,

Whether the bridge which spans
Some foreign gorge,
The construct of my thoughts,

Whether a blue bamboo shoot,
Its forest host,
The meadow-wedded yellows,

The dew on the fronds of the foam,
Or the unending grasp of gravities,
The dark hand of solid space.

There’s perfection in equations;
Nature contains only ever enough.
Consciousness of these things,

I am an exclave to the sum.

Ode To May

The outside world thins,
As still as a painting,
A ceiling fan is spilling secrets
Without waiting
For interrogations
From daylight’s detectives,
Who pursuing will strive
To arrest and detain
The tails of life
Without ending,
Much like priests
But without overpayment,
And never successful.

The torsos of sinners
And chess for beginners,
Sweat drips on to a bishop,
Diagonal moves and although
The air is thinner
A nation exhales
Over mythic travails
With flags and balloons
And bunting, but I am not one
For hunting the hart of the past
To splay its bludgeoned carcass over
A diminishing present.

Cigarette-end days, hot ashes,
Swimming pool bans and
Dead roadside pheasants;
Trays of unaddressed fears unstamped;
An empty, drowsy watering can,
It’s years since I made resolutions
Because I do not trust myself
To keep their sacred seedlings safe,
And I do not trust dogma or customs;
The politicians appear like
Ice cream vendors on television
Misselling again,
Though broadcasters would have us think
That more believable are the men
Wearing patriotic ties.

Oxygen contracts like a dowager’s eye,
And if I am not mistaken
I’m waiting for havens
Of winter again.