Tag Archives: rurality

under a lilly-pilly moon

This was written for the dVerse Razzie prompt, which was to write a poem incorporating the title of a film that has won a Raspberry (worst film) award. It was also prompted by last night’s blood moon, which was red because of the syzygy (alignment) of the sun, Earth and moon. And the botanical name of the Australian native lilly-pilly which grows red or purple berries is syzygium (although I only found that out after writing the poem and googling lilly-pilly to check my spelling). 

 

Under the blood moon

…no, that’s wrong,
that conjures wolves
chasing across snow
hearts racing with fear…
No, not in late spring,
and not here
where the closest thing to a wolf
is the ginger mutt curled at my feet.

So let me start again:

Under the cherry moon,
Earth’s-shadow pinked,
a warm northerly caresses
the swelling berries,
still pale but ready to blush.

No, still not quite right…
Begin again, begin with what is here:

Under the lilly-pilly moon
the ginger-mutt mutters,
paws twitching, ears flicking
at a boobook’s plaintive cry.
Adrift on bloodborne ancestral songlines,
in his dingo dreams he chases the ‘roos,
that thump past
like the slow, heavy heartbeat of the bush.

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after the flood, chainsaws

After the flood
when the hiluxes have been dragged from the gullies
and the roads are cleared and open in town,
when the water is mopped from living rooms
and the ‘roos are drying along the roadsides
when the sheep are washed white as cotton wool
and the cockatoos are muddy as street urchins
when the gum-leaves glitter in the afternoon sun
and the water has fallen so that we can stride into the creek –
then
while the three-legged dog watches
(though we are hardly drovers’ wives),
we take our chainsaws,
and we clear the path
home.

We got 80mm of rain in a few hours Thursday-week ago, which might not sound like a huge amount but with all the rain we’ve had recently the soil is saturated, the dams are full and there was nowhere for it to go. My neighbour was sending me texts on her way (trying to get) home of closed roads, vehicles large and small washed off and people being rescued. We live at the end of a dirt road past a creek crossing that floods a few times a year – and this time it was not only flooded, a tree had washed across it. She couldn’t get across until morning, when she waded across to where her three-legged dog was sitting in the cold waiting for her. I was home, but my family had stayed in Canberra to avoid the floods.  In the afternoon, when the water had dropped enough, we each took a chainsaw and cleared the tree together.  In the photo above you can see the “tide-line” just in front of the vehicle (well above the mud-line) where the water got to.  Today we got another 40mm of rain, and it flooded again but nowhere near as high.   

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Sutton bonfire night

Flames rise, pouring sparks upwards –
red specks flickering
among the billion bright
diamond points
of a black winter sky.

Faces glow in the firelight
while buttocks freeze,
then vice versa,
as we all enact
a slow human rotisserie.
while as the flames die down
leaves and branches gone,
back to the air they grew from,
we edge inwards
towards the great stumps and trunks
that will still be smouldering tomorrow.

(Imagine us from above, seen in time lapse:
we dance a slow, primal country dance –
spinning on the spot in concentric rings,
which gradually close around the flames.)

A blue dragon dances
past the towering fire,
head swinging to a drum beat
body swaying gracefully,
and followed behind
by a dozen children
gathered from the dark depths
by its glowing lure.

A pair of buskers,
adequate to the occasion,
lit by the church-hall porch-light
provide a backing track
to the how-have-you-beens
and did-you-hear-abouts,
exchanged by the fire.

Firefighters stand around,
poking un-burnt branches into the flames,
the red and blue lights of their engines
flashing in the background,
and the reflective strips on their suits
catching the firelight as they move
sending ripples of light across them
like deep-sea creatures.

As the flames sink
from white-yellow towers
to orange-red mounds
darkness creeps closer
and young blood is overwhelmed
with the sugar of too many
melted, scalded,
or blatantly blackened marshmallows,
and the knee-high and hyper
run in packs like ferals –
appearing
for a moment
from the dark
then disappearing again
trailing laughter.

Swaggering teens cluster
their swearing still sitting,
uncomfortably,
like sharp stones in their mouths
to be spat out from their hoodies
with awkward bravado
as they light sticks
in the marshmallow-toasting fires
now abandoned by their smaller siblings.

And so we are separated by age
(or volume? mass?)
by this strange centrifuge effect –
slowly rotating adults by the fire,
then gangling teens in their half-lit clusters,
and then the little ones,
running rings around us all in the darkness.

Until, dad’s beer and mum’s wine finished,
the sausages, served with bread and gossip,
savoured and swallowed down,
the rings start to mingle,
disperse,
as by ones and twos and threes
parents gather their teens,
their little ones,
and walk away into the darkness
under the billion bright
diamond points
of a black winter sky.

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woodsmoke

Mid-winter
and the wood-smoke rolls
in a soft tumble from the roof.
Outside in the meagre sunshine,
it smells of home and warmth,
of our own small circle of firelight.

How does the meaning of a smell change so much?

Two summers ago,
smoke was the smell of fear
filling the air,
permeating every waking moment
penetrating our sleep
turning dreams to nightmares.

Two summers of rain have washed the fear away.
I know in time it will come again,
but for now
I am choosing
to let the smoke tumbling from the chimney
remind me of the warmth inside.

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looking at baby animals therapy

For the dVerse Haibun Monday prompt, “solstice

On Sunday I walked down to my neighbour’s place to see if her overdue new calf had been born. I dawdled and delayed, scared to look in case it was still-born. But there it was, a few hours old, already fluffy and staggering around uncertainly. And I cried and cried when I saw it. Great sobs bringing up the darkness of the last months, washed out in a flood of tears (and, inevitably, quite a lot of snot). God knows what the cow thought of me, sobbing hysterically next to her. But she looked me in the eye and lowed loudly. I don’t think it was sympathy, she just wanted this mad human away from her calf.
Yesterday I planted two apricot trees, with a bag of manure each. The winter sun, even on the second-shortest of days, was warm in the garden and lifted sweet tendrils of scent from the horse and cow manure. Sweet scent of manure, sharp scent of calendulas, a comforting twist of woodsmoke from the chimney. Sitting on the ground, I day-dreamed of apricots – sun warmed, juicy and tangy-sweet, the colour of winter sunsets.
Today, my neighbour left a bunch of flowers on the gate for me. On this shortest day of the year, I have flowers on my kitchen table, the hope of summer apricots, and a fluffy calf I can visit later when the sun comes out. And if it doesn’t come out, perhaps there will be rain for my apricot trees.

let’s start the new year
with the solstice, so that each
new day is brighter

cow and calf

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“sod off, ya evil bastards”

The Tuesday dVerse prompt was to write about corvids. In Australia, our only corvids are the crows and ravens. Our lovely native magpies and charming choughs are not corvids (not related to the northern hemisphere varieties), so that just left me with my least-favourite birds to write about. 

 

Even in the sunlight they are silhouettes,
croaking their curse-calls, their protest
at the wire and netting spread to protect
the hens who cluster in maternal distress.
These black cardboard cut-outs in the trees,
these are the chick-killers and these the egg-thieves
I shout and throw a stone to scatter these.
Let them search instead for a carrion feast.

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the breakfast rush

For the Monday dVerse haibun prompt “birdsongs“:  

The sky is white and the air autumn-cool. Inside the children are eating breakfast, packing bags, looking for lost things. Outside, I throw scraps and a saucepan-scoop of pellets to the pig, and a scoop of wheat to the hens.
The rosellas swoop in, to perch chittering and bickering in the bent brittlegum by the chicken coop, waiting for me to leave. Among the brilliant reds and blues of the adults are a few youngsters not yet in full-dress plumage, but still in their dull cami greens. They are flamboyantly beautiful brats, especially the adults. Unable to share, they chase each other away so none has much chance to feed.
Circling the house, I pour a little wheat into each feeder. At the front I disturb the chough family who have arrived early. They hop and whistle back into the tree line, in their dignified black coats with only a fan of white lining showing when they spread their wings. Always together, like a close-knit family of undertakers, the choughs alight together at the feeder, all eight forming a black flower – heads down, tails up, as they share a meal.

The sky falls, screaming –
the cockatoos have arrived.
The small birds scatter.

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summoning the sun

For the Thursday dVerse prompt (better late than never) “morning has broken“. The challenge was to write an aubade. I didn’t quite manage that, but here is a description of an aubade (of sorts) that starts about 0400 every morning here:

Listen to him crowing:
again and again rooster calls,
summoning the sun.
An hour, and another hour
and another hour of darkness
do not dent his tenacity.

Admire his determination:
(becoming tinged with desperation?)
he does not stop
until his efforts are rewarded
by the reluctant slug-a-bed sun.

And see him now:
strutting proudly among the hens
proclaiming loudly:
Look! For you, I have summoned the sun!
For you I have brought this new day!
This I have done, for you!

Clucking to each other,
the hens submit to his advances
as to a minor inconvenience,
then, ruffling their feathers straight,
they go about their day.

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come blackberrying

Bright white paper-scrap butterflies
flit and flutter by the roadside,
beside the passing roaring cars
among their passengers’ discards –
cans and bottles, fast-food wraps,
brought by highway, the city’s scraps.

But walk with me into the trees,
where butterflies like autumn leaves
all rise and swirl, then drift to ground
in shades of russet, yellow, brown.
Ripe grasses wave their waist-high plumes,
and tethered between the thistle blooms
silken threads from jewelled spiders
catch the careless zephyr riders.
Come, follow me, up the hillside,
skirting the webs and thistles stride
to where the brambles arch and mound
and birdsong is the loudest sound.

We’ll pluck the fruit, so ripe and sweet,
some for our baskets and some to eat,
sweat slicked, hands pricked, faces glowing
stained by musky juices flowing,
‘til sated at last with fruit, my love,
come lie with me with just sky above.

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Blackberrying, Lake George

There is water now where the sheep grazed,
a second blue sky
stretching from our feet to the hills
where paired upright and inverted turbines
turn slow semaphore signals.

Skirting the gate
and stepping over the fence,
avoiding sodden gullies and thistles,
we come to the bramble-mounds
where the sweet black musky berries wait.

Recycled honey-buckets over wrists,
one hand to steadies the stem,
while the other plucks the plump fruit,
some so ripe it drops at a touch.
We alternately fill the buckets
and ourselves,
until both are full near to overflowing.

Fingers and mouths stained purple,
hands and arms scratched,
we return home triumphant.

Pots bubble
and the scent of
dust, musk and summer heat
fills the kitchen
as we pour these dog-days of summer
into a dozen jars,
to be put away until we need
a taste of sunshine.

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