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  • Korimul


    On one of those early slips from our sty,
    untried in the fighting wind, we were singing
    shreds of ads and shows as we swung
    away up west, where hunching scrub
    stubbed out the tamely haunted streets,
    and pall of branches mantled a rise
    that curled in piling miles to a crest:

    the fossil wave that bent the world unblessed;

    or so I fretted, glossing its age with gloom.
    It was the brooding witness of our days,
    this wooded heave, to the north sea-cliffed,
    oblique to the brickle plain in the south,
    and crushed up into nubs above the great lagoon;
    Keira, Kembla, Illawarra: the ancient names,
    our compass under the trackless air.

    And the lodestone of it all we drew to tread now:
    the fabled spur
    and snare of clouds,
    the bastion that our town beset,
    its name as blunt in our newcomer speech
    as the furrowed bulk it crumbled toward the sea.

    We seven were reared in its shadow’s reach,
    this broken nose:
    the cowl of sun in its westering furl,
    cloaking our yards in evening, early,
    nightward nursing, or first of seers
    at dawn, its giant browline solemn,
    growing golden.

    We seven were coined from suburbs enclosed
    in hopes that glowed as if televised,
    in sunlit seething or dozing; townships grown
    on surf, no work, or work and shopping; work
    in shops or mines or mills, and shipping steel,
    and filling holds of ships with coal,
    culled and trucked from tunnelled hills.

    We seven were caught in boyhood’s fade,
    and the stir that quickened our frames
    we fed with demotic fictions,
    ravelled in missions of magic and battle
    on back-shed tables, timed out of Time.
    The tiny fame that we templed
    trumped horizons felled like headstones.

    Now, we braved the coal-encrypting slopes,
    the title of companies and boards transgressed,
    to reach the mythic bluff, the decks of stone
    stacked up to sunsets, plinth
    to the telecoms tower, the spire of our spilling town:
    from bush to beach that cubic smash
    where God was as little as pockets.

    * * * * *

    Off the ochre tracks, as if explorers,
    or at jungle war, sharing a bent machete,
    we hacked, in turns, attempting to shed the child:
    brushed off in bracken, snared in vines,
    cast in the caustic lantana, to cry
    of burning scrapes and crawl away.
    Blocked by boulders or sudden swamp
    we shrugged and scouted round; a gully
    would guide us up, a ridgeline rise
    to burn our calves to the crumbling height.

    Lungs against the humid steeps,
    we pried a path up deadleaf drifts,
    goaded by fingerbone flies, and slipping,
    while whipbirds piped our every gain
    to the forest wards: the last great fig,
    as nailed and scarred as atonement; and
    the ghosted rockface, where old storms
    had struck a serpent into the stone: a crack
    split all the way since Christ, poised
    at any trice to raze.

    Although the crest would wall our way
    with sheer refusal, treetop high,
    a crooked runnel hinting at rungs
    betrayed the clifftop, gifted us passage,
    released us panting from eaten shadow
    to arid light in lungfuls; then
    in ashen scribble the banksias bent
    a crazy nave toward the summit,
    where city, scarp, and sea were tethered
    with heaven at one broad altar.

    On this hanging crag, fissured and flued,
    by ages of weathers hewn,
    and incised all over with names,
    some worn already to sigils lost to sense;
    here, by the telecoms tower,
    facing the map of all that we knew,
    from northern pass to dun lagoon,
    our spread arms Christed us to the crowded arc,
    rehearsed our flight, defied or embraced our part
    in the jetsam far beneath our feet.

    * * * * *

    A huge round hiss like crowds uplifted
    the eucalypt crowns, and cheered the peak
    where we perched on edges unfenced
    and jutting to nothing.
    Flushed with applause, we roared
    and raved in tyrant orations, pretending
    no deafness below; dilating as looming
    to the captive miniscule coast
    as our podium stone itself.
    Our soon spent bellows would leave us as hoarse
    as men, yet our child exclaimed
    at the trickling trains and tankers like toys;
    the Tasman as tub.

    There’s your place. Where is mine?
    Think I can see, just follow that line
    along from the Point and up a bit right;
    yes! there at the trees where it goes all bright.

    As the piping weather played the tower’s
    cage of struts, I unbelieved
    the given rut of elders, half awake at their trades,
    that we would be heirs to their map and sea,
    their meld of coal and steel that had made
    the watercourses gutters, their pillage
    of mines and mills, now drifting in my sight.

    Here at the pivot of light were held,
    in a single spell, both smear and sky,
    fume and freshness, racket and rest;
    all weathers: blast, bake, and pour;
    the rude glyphs of our clueless kind,
    ornate with lichen;
    the buzz and blow of trucks on the pass,
    and bush bees homing their nectar, unseen;
    the cream and copper bedrock bared
    by bootsoles on the dappled floor of twigs
    where wrens would flit and peck our crumbs
    when our noise and shins were gone
    - a spell that lingered,
    shed from the sailing sun, and flaring
    to fleeting vision.

    Epic fiction,
    we still were child enough
    to make it; we who dared
    the peril among the alien rocks.

    * * * * *

    Niches would find us, shelter and bind us
    tight in the typical weave; it turned out
    we would be plain, in prime, in decay.
    Thrown in our livelong scars, and waning,
    would that we might recover our trailing, young,
    to the sun’s last mooring; renew our gifting
    there, with a spore of Korimul’s light,
    and home it westward,
    over the darkening range of our dust,
    to kindle sharp against the last
    and animal dusk.
    Last edited by grant hayes; 04-04-2016, 09:17 PM.

  • #2
    This is a jaw-dropping masterpiece! I am positively awe-stricken. My congratulations, Grant.


    • #3
      Many thanks, MHenry. That is very high praise. I am taken aback.


      • #4
        Just found out there's a 100-word limit on poems in this prize. I guess it pays to read the fine print. Oh well. I will re-post it in the Shared section.


        • #5
          Such beautiful use of language!


          • #6
            Thank you 1sided. You have manifold sides, I am sure. 😊


            • #7
              Oh my gosh. I agree with Bobby - this masterpiece wants repeat performances in my memory. It leaves me breathless - the wonder of where you grew.


              • grant hayes
                grant hayes commented
                Editing a comment
                This was the poem that unlocked writing for me, Rhymist, a kind of pivotal BC/AD moment. I worked on it for months, persisting out of a desire to record faithfully my feelings and impressions of the place where I grew up. Looking back on it, I am aware of its flaws: its length, its naivete, its insularity, its proximity to bathos and tedium. On the positive side, it is 'finished' and comprehensive and contains passages and images I am pleased to have devised. And, most importantly, it helped me realise that poems were what I really wanted to write, whether or not they ever amounted to anything in the world at large. Thank you for reading and sharing your response, Rhymist; this was a piece I thought would remain marginal.

            • #8
              This is a beauty, grant. A quest of friendship, of shared experiences and lives wrapped in a day of climbing and conquering. I don’t even know what some of your Aussie descriptors mean yet I could see, hear and feel your ascent. Sorry I missed this before. (If you wrote it now, would you try to do it in twenty words?)


              • grant hayes
                grant hayes commented
                Editing a comment
                Thank you for the kind appreciation, Muttado; I am glad you could relate to this and be carried along on the journey. On the matter of poem size, to be honest, I would like to be able to write longer pieces than has become typical. I need to find a balance between my more compressed, opaque efforts and the narrative ramble of a piece like Korimul,