Rules for Walking

Published : Tuesday, August 28, 2007 | Label:   Poems  

I have a general theory: keep going.
I have a rider: watch for transitions.
And another: beware false summits.

Prepare for the walk
by taking the walk.
Go a little faster than you should
and a little slower than you’d like.
Notice the pink mountain berry
brilliant as a hooker’s lipstick,
the pink robin on the fallen log above the amber stream,
the waratah, her crimson fingers curled
or just being
what she’s meant to be: the imitation of a spider or a prayer.
Notice anything incarnadine in all this green and black and tawn,
the calm slow violence of time,
the voices of the small birds,
the skin of the snowgums.
Notice. Full stop.

III—At the top (Mt Rufus)
I claim this
world of dolerite gothic
and blue-brown jagged distance
and shattered former sandstone
and captured lake and peat bog
For poetry
and silence.
For tiger snake
and brown hawk
For dwarf snowgum
and deciduous beech.
For the eschatology of droppings
and the ten thousand flying things.
For no one
and itself.

I was no one all day,
and I learned some more proofs of self:
aching joints,
heavy legs,
first sweat, then cold;
the taking off of layers
and the putting back on;
jolt of panic that quickened me
at the first black snake
and then the second
and at the sloughed snakeskin
and the echidna at my feet.
The other proof came at 1500 metres
when my phone rang,
and it was you.
I can be found anywhere,
it seems,
by love.

V—Coming down
When I came, footsore, to Shadow Lake,
the sun was out
and so the lake itself was there,
sepia-translucent as a fish,
shadowed all around by cypress
and casuarinas, and,
as everywhere,
by the fallen props of heaven;
and there I drank
and tasted earth
and went on.

VI—Second wind
The second time I heard the unmistakable breathing of the river,
it was the river.
The first time it was afternoon in the high emasculated canopies of black peppermints.
But by then I would have believed anything.

VII—Back at the start (Gondwana)
And all day the delicate foliage of the myrtle
like needlepoint
claiming this new world for the old
world it once was,
we all were,
before the sundering,
back when everything was one.

—Friday, 2 December 2005


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