Poems set for HSC
The six poems set for HSC are ‘Late Ferry’, ‘Flames and Dangling Wire’, ‘Journey, the North Coast’, ‘The Meatworks’, ‘North Coast Town’ and ‘Diptych.’ Two of these poems are reproduced below (and four others, not included).
The wooden ferry is leaving now;
I stay to watch
from a balcony, as it goes up onto
the huge, dark harbour,
out beyond a gangling jetty;
the palm tree tops
make the sound of touches
of a brush on the snare drum
in the windy night. It goes beyond
street lights’ fluorescence
over dark water, that ceaseless
activity, like chromosomes
uniting and dividing, and out beyond
the tomato stake patch
of the yachts, with their orange
lamps; leaving this tuberous
shaped bay, for the city,
above the plunge of night. Ahead,
neon redness trembles
down in the water, as if into ice, and
the longer white lights
feel nervously about in the blackness,
towards here, like hands
after the light switch.
The ferry is drawn along
polished marble, to be lost soon
amongst a blizzard of light
swarming below the Bridge,
a Busby Berkeley spectacular
with thousands in frenzied, far-off
choreography, in their silver lamé,
the Bridge like a giant prop.
This does seem in a movie theatre;
the boat is small as a moth
wandering through the projector’s beam,
seeing it float beneath the city.
I’ll lose sight of the ferry soon—
I can find it while it’s on darkness,
like tasting honeycomb,
filled as it is with its yellow light.
On a highway over the marshland.
Off to one side, the smoke of different fires in a row,
like fingers spread and dragged to smudge:
it is a rubbish dump, always burning.
Behind us, the city
driven like stakes into the earth.
A waterbird lifts above this swamp
as a turtle moves on the Galapagos shore.
We turn off down a gravel road,
approaching the dump. All the air wobbles
in a cheap mirror.
There is fog over the hot sun.
Now the distant buildings are stencilled in the smoke.
And we come to a landscape of tin cans,
of cars like skulls,
that is rolling in its sand dune shapes.
Amongst these vast grey plastic sheets of heat,
who seem engaged in identifying the dead—
they are the attendants, in overalls and goggles,
forking over rubbish on the dampened fires.
A sour smoke
is hauled out everywhere,
thin, like rope. And there are others moving—scavengers.
As in hell the devils
might poke about through our souls, after scraps
with which to stimulate themselves,
so these figures
seem to come wandering, in despondence, with an eternity
where they can find
some peculiar sensation.
We get out and move about also.
The smell is huge,
blasting the mouth dry:
the tons of rotten newspaper, and great cuds of cloth . . .
And standing where I see the mirage of the city
I realize I am in the future.
This is how it shall be after men have gone.
It will be made of things that worked.
A labourer hoists an unidentifiable mulch
on his fork, throws it in the flame:
like the rag held up in ‘The Raft of the Medusa.’
We approach another, through the smoke,
and for a moment he seems that demon with the long barge pole.
—It is a man, wiping his eyes.
Someone who worked here would have to weep,
and so we speak. The rims beneath his eyes are wet
as an oyster, and red.
Knowing all that he does about us,
how can he avoid a hatred of men?
Going on, I notice an old radio, that spills
its dangling wire—
and I realize that somewhere the voices it received
are still travelling,
skidding away, riddled, around the arc of the universe;
and with them, the horse-laughs, and the Chopin
which was the sound of the curtains lifting,
one time, to a coast of light.