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Mark Tredinnick


The Last Day of Winter

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.
                                                      Spinebill trills
                                        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
                                                      a morning
                                        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
                                                      the butcherbird
                                        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
                                                      like nothing.
                                        I bend on my walk, close to the shore, and I pocket

A skip stone. Improbably green. Like jade. And I think of you,
                                                      your eyes
                                        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
                                                      the broken
                                        pieces of your name, some of which, sexual in their surrender,

I pocket, in case it helps. I walk over the black promontory
                                                      and down
                                        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,


3. Silence

That radical kind of love. So I kill it and I listen instead to the end of the world
                                                      rolling in
                                        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
                                                      so just
                                        and tender as your breast. But when was anything ever?


Listen to Mark Tredinnick read "Epilogue:"




Fire Diary

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:"




Morning Meditation

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:"




Mark Tredinnick, whose books include The Blue Plateau: An Australian Pastoral, The Little Red Writing Book, Writing Well: The Essential Guide, and A Place on Earth: An Anthology of Nature Writing from North America and Australia, is an Australian poet, essayist, and writing teacher. His work has won many major awards, including the Blake Poetry Prize and the Queensland Premier's Literary Award, and his books, poems, and essays are widely published in Australia and North America. Fire Diary, his first book of poems, was published in Australia in November 2010. Mark is on a reading tour of the United States during March and April 2011 [view tour details].
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