Three elms stand bright as bauxite against purple snow clouds.
Someone has dipped the trees
in ink the very colour of desire. But three minutes on,
Their small moment past, the trees slump in the dusk; the cloud rolls north.
The hill to the east, though,
is violet yet, and the clouds above it are mauve and yellow and grey.
The end of things, like the start, is often electric. 5.35 today: an essay in love
and grief, so often paired,
in my experience—delight and fear, tenderness and panic.
What made me look up to see this? The useless world consoles
even when one’s lost
in one’s several incoherent selves, one’s discontinuous narrative. The world
Flares. Beauty insists on itself; night insists on itself after that. And just as it does,
this day, a kookaburra cants
and the violin slides like a woman in silk sheets all the way down to the end
Of the partita. I seem to have forgotten how to live my life. Something in me
wants just one god,
one muse or another, the tree or the cloud. Magenta or cyan. Darkness
Falls: why, still, can I not bring my heart to rest like that? The world is neither right
nor wrong. It is dusk
and then it is midnight, then dawn. All there is is earth, this single manifestation
Of eternity. And all one has to do is live, in joy and in woe. Perhaps in praise. And yet,
offered two heavens,
I want only one. But which one? Did anyone else ever die of delight?
Tonight the moon is new again, shy as you were. She is an empty boat above the city
in the pale estuary
of dusk. In her—nothing but beauty and longing. And something I let slip.
Listen to Mark Tredinnick read "The last day of winter:"
1. An Unforgiving Discipline
I’m feeling it now. The sorrow one may not feel and must not name.
I’d lost you,
you see, before I knew you’d carry this much of me
Away. I had not counted on the shape of you; I had not counted on the longing
My little one calls from her cot, staring down sleep,
A gift no one should refuse. Sun falls on the table where I sit alone.
along the river, the wind rises, and I try to feel glad
For all this, but such days will always feel like you. There will come
I don’t wake and think first of you. But that day can wait.
I can think of only one thing worse than holding onto you. In the sheoaks
makes her savage prayers. Beauty’s an unforgiving discipline.
2. I Had Not Counted
You walked out on me twice and in on me once, which was enough,
and none of this
is how it’s supposed to go. I never knew love, for instance,
Could feel so much like fear; or grief like hope; or everything
I bend on my walk, close to the shore, and I pocket
A skip stone. Improbably green. Like jade. And I think of you,
like jasper, your tongue like the tide. I never was much good
At not wanting what I want. I walk on the broken tideline among
pieces of your name, some of which, sexual in their surrender,
I pocket, in case it helps. I walk over the black promontory
onto a beach where the world is coming limpidly to an end
And I sit on a cold sandbank in back of the beach. Till now I’d have said
I was good
at self-denial. But I never had you to deny. I had not counted
On the longing the waves say over and over and I sit
in the grass
and I say it to you in a text. But you need silence now,
That radical kind of love. So I kill it and I listen instead to the end of the world
from the east. Sun sets. The sand turns grey. I turn and walk
Back into my life. There are honeyeaters and butcherbirds making
what could be
music in the banksias but which is probably just prose.
I look about, but there’s nothing fair or kind anywhere. Nothing nearly
and tender as your breast. But when was anything ever?
Listen to Mark Tredinnick read "Epilogue:"
Fire has stormed the mountains of his sleep, and he wakes in ruins.
There is ash
on his workbench; the six stories of his bookcase have collapsed
Into one, which lies on the concrete floor, and from it splay the broken
bodies of poems, leak
the lexical souls of reference books. He is a fireground, after.
Nature, he thinks, is bipolar and worsening with age. Manic,
one day, she spikes high
into the forties and runs naked, blazing with ideas, through
The foothills. Down again, the next, she looks out from under her hair
at the wreck she’s made
and cannot think where to go from here. For days she weeps.
Is it possible, he wonders, to mourn like a forest? Like a house
that’s just a tin roof now?
is how he feels in the blue-black morning, but he hasn’t
Earned his sorrow. His is onlyvrisk fatigue—the shadow side
of beauty. Fire is the madness
in us all. And with it, periodically, he torches all his dreams
Of safety and starts over. When the future comes, if ever she comes,
she’ll speak, he knows,
a new species of language, in which one word for love will be fire,
And the other will be rain, and he will sleep like silence on the black terrain between.
— Originally published in PAN: Philosophy Activism Nature
Listen to Mark Tredinnick read "Fire Diary:"
I sit in the wooden chair longing
as ever to sit in the wooden chair
on the other side of longing. I meditate with less efficacy but at roughly the same frequency
as the silver poplars beside me, who smoke and spend
their nervous energy buying up a breeze.
On my desk the blended family
of my household gods lies about posing piously a number of the big old questions, telling me
I’m already the best luck I can ever expect.
Meantime, the beloved lets herself loose in the bath
In a contiguous dimension,
where the sky is tiled in blue ceramics,
and I try not to think about how far
I still have to travel. 01/11/10: today is a numinous palindrome
the morning is running scared of; it’s the same day it’s always been. I see now
I haven’t felt safe in my own skin for years—perhaps I never wanted to.
My spirit’s been doing my body’s work, and that’s going to have to stop. You need your body
to be a safe house, she tells me, for your mendicant self,
and your mind to be a library of consolation.
Meantime, the world we had thought
our eternal home is unmaking itself around us,
and making uncomfortable our own place within it.
Shiva, at his perpetual tap on top of a stack of books—a dictionary of geography,
my grandfather’s bible, the Rig Veda, and the complete poems of Emily Dickinson—
stops and laughs at my grief. Love is coming at you from everywhere,
north and south and east. Stop needing it, he raps;
start dancing it. And just then
the same old sun breaks through.
(Rumi, “Different Loads”, September 16; “Sheba’s Hesitation”, September 17 in Barks)
Listen to Mark Tredinnick read "Morning Meditation:"