It’s erosion upon a grand scale.
Were it man’s doing, how they would wail
Of such wanton destruction;
Heed Nature’s instruction –
Beside her great sculptures ours pale.
Of all bush structures, none can best
The grandeur of the turkey’s nest –
A mighty tower of twigs and leaves,
With claw and beak, each turkey weaves;
An oven, where the cock’s strong feet,
About the eggs, adjust the heat,
Until the chicks with chirp and cheep
Burst skywards from the rotting heap.
I spied a grand old ash,
Close by the shore, where crash
The waves on shining sand.
I asked it: “Here you stand,
And have for many years.
What laughter and what tears
Can you recall, old tree?
Your secrets tell to me.”
Sprang up a brisk sea-breeze
To rustle its grey leaves;
Its branches swayed and groaned,
And then to me it moaned:
“So long ago I saw
Upon this shining shore,
The campfires in the night,
And by their flickering light,
The dance of painted men;
I was a sapling then;
Now fully grown am I;
My trunk is thick, and high
And mighty do I stand,
But on the shining sand
I see no signs of men –
The ones I knew back then.
Their fires have long gone cold –
To ash – and I am old.”
Then quiet – the sea-breeze died,
And soft the giant sighed;
The waves crashed on the shore;
The old ash said no more.
Four billion years the Earth has been around?
For almost all that time no sight or sound
Of man? – No creature walked upon the ground
Who could appreciate this Eden found?
No thinker that its wonders could astound?
With patience all creators must abound.
Where rivers flow in monsoon climes
I heard back in those distant times
Strange tales of men and seas and fate
And one such story I’ll relate:
In waters warm, gloomy and deep,
Where crabs and worms and shellfish creep;
When dies the day and wakes the night;
When all that shines is dim starlight
And moonlight where the drifting clouds
Admit a glimmer by their shrouds,
To murky depths where vision blurs,
There – from his rest a monster stirs.
With body, seven yards or more,
Another two of toothy saw,
Hide dull and coarse – rough skin of shark,
Eyes glowing faintly in the dark.
He rises slowly from his hide
As pulls the force of time and tide.
A killer of prodigious length;
A shadowed shape of power and strength.
Then with a flick of tail and fins
The sawfish on his hunt begins.
Goes forth the fish unto the south,
Toward the river’s yawning mouth.
There by the glistening muddy banks,
Where swarms of mullet school in ranks
He herds and thrashes with his saw –
Consumes the shards of flesh and gore.
Above the fish a shape drifts by –
Barbed spear, sharp as the native eye
Strikes true and deep, into the giant;
He turns upon his foe defiant.
With flashing saw the shape he rakes;
The bark canoe splinters and breaks,
As others rally to the fight;
Spears rend his flesh – from left and right.
His back abristle with cruel goads,
The sawfish writhes, the sea explodes
With waves whipped red – a crimson flood,
As from his wounds wells out his blood.
His life now ebbs, his struggle slows;
His saw no match for savage blows.
Though one who hunted him lies still,
Was not the fish who sought to kill.
So soon upon the mud he’s drawn.
His body shudders, pierced and torn.
The sawyer of the sea cut down;
Felled on the land, to gasp and drown.
The lizards are dyin’ of thirst,
And the red-bellied blacks – that’s a first.
All the cattle are dead
And the roos have all fled;
What we need is a flamin’ cloudburst.
Anna Creek – sprawling under the sun,
Has no equal when all’s said and done.
Like a country – so vast,
It’s in size unsurpassed;
Anna Creek is the world’s largest run.
He stumbled down the dusty track,
His rifle slung across his back.
She lay amid the trampled grass,
No miracle had come to pass.
He laid her head upon his knee.
Her eyes rolled back till she could see
His face, the one she knew so well,
His voice, his touch, his sweat, his smell.
“Old girl” he said, “I’ve known awhile,
Your stubbornness, your craft, your guile,
For you and I were sometimes foes
And there were times we came to blows.
You’ve knocked me down when in the yard
And I recall you kicked me hard.
I bested you – upon my word,
Old Red – the boss cow of the herd.
But now you lie here on this slope.
I’ve tried my best but there’s no hope.
You’re down old girl and you won’t rise;
You know you’re done – it’s in your eyes.
Old Red, there’s but the truth to face:
This is your final resting place.
I’ll give you one last pat old friend,
Then quick – your suffering will end.”
Over time I have observed
In fine verses walls preserved.
References that is to those
Which divided woods from rose
Gardens or perhaps a field –
Mowed, the sweetest hay to yield.
Walls stacked high with blocks or bricks;
Others packed with rocks and sticks.
Walls dressed neat or overgrown.
Walls that framed the tilled soil sown.
Walls that stirred the poet’s heart.
Walls that kept well-matched apart.
Many walls alas are lost –
Burnt by fires or cracked by frost,
But it seems that as one falls
Others rise – for men need walls.
australian formal poetry, Australian Marsupials, Australian poet, Australian traditional poetry, Bush Poetry, extinct marsupials, Extinct Tasmanian Tiger, Extinction, poem, poetry, sonnet, Tasmania, Tasmanian tiger, Tasmanian Tiger sightings, Tasmanian Wolf, thylacine, Thylacine sightings, Van Diemen's Land
I’m going away to Van Diemen’s Land
Where marsupials in the bush abide.
There I’ll search for scat, and for tracks in sand,
And I’ll wander the forests far and wide
For a fleeting glimpse of the tiger’s hide.
On the alpine slopes; in the grey-green hills;
To the east and west of the Great Divide,
There his fare he finds in the fresh road kills,
Or the slow or the stricken his belly fills.
But for those who say that the tiger’s dead;
That he hunts no more by the soaks and rills,
There’s a man I know, and this man he said
That the tiger’s death is a pack of lies,
For he’s seen the beast with his own two eyes.