Uncollected: The Daylight Moon
The Daylight Moon was published in 1987 (see Bibliography). All but the following three poems, "At Thunderbolt's Grave in Uralla" and "The Australia Card" are included in the New Collected Poems.
The Easter rains are late this year
at this other end of a dry hard winter.
Low clouds grow great rustling crops of fall
and all the gully-courses braid and bubble,
their root-braced jugs and coarse lips pour
and it's black slog for cows when, grass lake to puddle,
a galloping dog sparks on all four.
It'll be plashy England here for a while
or boggy Scotland, by the bent straw colour
and the breaks of sun mirror-backed with chill.
Coming home? It was right. And it was time.
I had been twenty-nine years away
after books and work and society
but society vanished into ideology
and by then I could bring the other two home.
We haven't been out at night since we came
back, except last month, in the United Kingdom.
The towns ranged like footlights up the highway
and coastline here rehearse a subtle play
that's only staged in private by each family.
Sight and life restored by an eye operation
my father sits nightly before the glass screen
of a wood-burning slow combustion stove. We see
the same show, with words, on television.
Dad speaks of memories, and calls his fire homely:
when did you last hear that word without scorn
for something unglossy, or some poor woman?
Here, where thin is poor, and fat is condition,
"homely" is praise and warmth, spoken gratefully.
Its opposite lurks outside in dark blowing rain.
Horses are exposed to it, wanly stamping out
unglazed birth ware for mosquitoes in the coming season
and already peach trees are a bare wet frame
for notional little girls in pink dots of gingham.
Cars coming home fishtail and harrow the last mile,
their undersea headlights kicking gumtrees around eerily;
woodducks wake high in those trees, and peer from the door
they'll shove their ducklings out of, to spin down in their down,
sprawl, and swim to water. Our children dog the foot-
steps of their grandfather, learning their ancient culture.
It seems the man who's been camping on the summit
of the Lucky Country Leisurecrafts building has elected
not to come down, or at least not tamely between the policemen
who now step out of the roof access doors. He waves
at them with—it looks at this distance like forgiveness,
and vaults the guardrail.
The watchers' indrawn breaths
are a shout into themselves. He, call him now the fugitive,
eases down across a window, which swarms with bubble faces
as he leaves it. He drops. The swallowed shout bounces out—
and he grips a cornice. And draws his whole weight in
to a knot of rest there.
Amplified negotiations now commence
but stay one-sided, slamming up the resonant verticals
for an hour. "Come on Spiderman! Come on there, blowfly!"
jeer some press-studded youths. "Remember who you're crawling for!"
At the end of an hour, he waves loud hailers silent
and descends another storey, on the hundred-year-old
walling of cream roughcast.
He pauses for long minutes on the sill
of an office window. Workers will say he peered in
with the mild distortion of a face pressed to the glass
of an aquarium. His nose was a flat white circle,
his mouth made a fog patch. But now he drops away,
his fingers stabbing the wall all down the fitted
course of an inset drainpipe. His heels flirt with the crowd,
feeding ridged arcane rubber stamps to all the lenses.
He feasts now through glass on a tensed but unracking gym
as fire ladders develop upward.
Crabbing sidelong, he evades them. A cherrypicker crane
extends its cup, but he waves that too to pass him by, as
he inches down into the zone of handlers and helpers.
"Enjoy it, " breathes a fireman. "This climb is going to have
to last you a long time!" "Crazy," answers a police voice.
"It's alright saving the ones who want to be saved:
it's the clowns who don't that make us into coppers—"
By now the climber is not just a figure;
he has a face. "He's holding his breath!" cries someone.
Here the man reaches an iron grillework that leads
diagonally to the ground. Many run to haul him down,
then their arms drop, irresolute. Because he has upended
smoothly, as if underwater, and is descending
as if down cable into abyssal pressures.
You could swear bubbles streamed towards the ocean roof.
By pure muscle power he comes down
grip after grip; his jeaned legs hang loosely upward;
even his hair seems to float. Photographers, shoaling,
fire stellar phosphorescences at him
and when he somersaults
at last to the ground, it is with levitatory slowness
and as he sprawls, dust and his limbs whirl up
and there is agony in his now goggling eyes
as half-awed officials carry him, feet trailing
through the eddying audience, seat him in a car and click
a belt across him, as if against an unexhausted buoyancy.
Thinking about air conditioning's Willis Carrier
who also won the West, I am turning
earth in on a long potato drill,
which is like folding history down on trench lines
of unnumbered mild faces. The day
is overcast, with rain pricking the air
and us to hurry, plying our hoes along this promontory
above Horses Creek. The channel-billed cuckoo
shouts, flying, and the drug squad helicopter
comes singing I'll spot it, your pot plot.
O lord of love, look from above
sang the churches, but what looks down
from beyond the sky now's the television
of a spy satellite, feeding the coordinates
of today's cloud nations into spinning
tapes for the updating screens of judgement.
The Lord of love is in decay. Relievedly.
He's in worn flanks of stonework, in weathering
garden posts, in the survival of horses,
in humans' long survival after mating, in ticky tacky
buildings that mean the builders were paid properly
and not always by magnates. He is more apparent
in the idea, verandahs and visitings of a hospital
than the stunning theatre. More in surrounds than the centre
where he is ground against, love versus love, he lives
in the bantering pauses. The pattern of love's also
behind our continuing to cover these potatoes
which, by her mercy, also look like potatoes.
Warmth makes cool. The mystery of refrigeration—
but now three fighter aircraft distil out
of the north hills, fast, ahead of their enormous
collapse of sound. Cloud resorbs them. As in the bra ad
the heart lifts and separates, shrivelled with exultation
that is the angel of history: a boy bored rigid
with farmwork sights along a noble light-draining
sword blade held at the level of his mouth.
Cold. Burning cold. The old tremendous imagery
of the Judgement recycles cold, in a bitter age
where love is passion, and passion is the action.
Who could trust a God of love, now we have seen
the love that ignites stars, and ourselves possess such ignition?
Who would trust a god on heat nearer than the stars?
Who can trust heat, that may now freeze the planet?
Who can trust coldness, matrix of utter heat?
We cry for cool, because we long for warmth.
When the fighters grow obsolete, and their pipes cool,
warmth reinvests them. It seems a reversing cycle.
Let the Lord be warm and cool, and judgement be
a flower I'm not good enough to unfold yet,
as I stitch down this earth, and my uncle comes driving
his skittish young tractor over our holey paddock;
my uncle the ex-smoker—not pot: we're older than the pot lot—
who starts conversations with a ruminative ahaanh,
not aha! I've caught you! A shyer reconnecting ahaanh
warm from past meetings. This is among my people
whom I do understand, but not before they speak.