Open Cut

It began on the surface of a flooded, open-cut mine,
where a scuttled excavator glowed far down
like an orange fish. My father was fond of quoting
from his nautical repository, choosing words
for their percussive resonance. He'd drop anchor,
knowing the pick wouldn't take and the chain
drift like pewter bubbles. Often, we had no need
for talk, preferring to float in silence, the quarry
looming over us like bolted rock climbing walls
abandoned for water sport. I'd always find things
to focus on: a bird's nest like the tiny, controlled
explosion of an asterisk on a ledge, or the faint
silver gleam of a shed distorted by tailings of wind
and light. Once, the aftershock and diminishing
acoustic waves of a detonation sampled the chorus
from Enya’s 'Orinoco Flow.' After my father died
in a drift-net of sleep, I went to the mine at night
and set out in a rowboat. Stars were spot-welding
the surface of the lake together where I had
opened it with the oars. What we lose to the dark
diorama of time, we find in common ground
gone to memorial. Tonight, his face is a windy
match flare on black water. I can hear the rare
seam of his laughter when I fell in while reaching
for my hat. I knock over doomed narrow roads
opening the skin of memory, with moonlight
pouring in behind me to mend it.




Anzac Day, 2020

A blue and green butterfly shivers through a swatch of shades.
From black mud in the beam of my head lantern, a stone

engraved with 1957 surfaces on the run-out tide, and a heron
recites a poem in which a hen stares at nothing with one eye

before picking it up. I stop and light my face with research
into the name of the chemical helicopters spray

over mangroves to kill mosquito larvae. I say Methoprane
out loud while walking the dogs, as I like saying things

to see them tip their heads to the side. Nearing home, I see
the children of soldiers beside flags draped over gates

and hats slouching on posts. A veteran plays ‘The Last Post’
in his drive, his medals like bars of polished code

in breaking light. When the street lights go off, the sun
moves at walking pace down the center of the road.


‘a hen stares at  nothing with one eye before picking it up’ –
from Summer Farm by Norman MacCaig




I wanted to see a Gila monster or pangolin
that large-scaled relative, not of armadillo
         but the order Carnivora,
                  yet since travel restrictions
had stalled my forays into what had once
been The Wild but was now
         Weekend Glamping, I was happy
                  to engage with any living
thing to emerge from the screen
of flowering weeds and thorns at the end
         of the yard. You appeared
                  and asked why I was staring 
at your face as though it were
a new planet an astronomer 
         had chanced upon while looking
                  for reasons as to why
he shouldn't call off the search
for new life. I shouted Flamingo, as this
         trisyllabic utterance
                  is often my first response
to being frightened or surprised.
When a fissure in the wall of weeds
         closed with a pneumatic sigh,
                  your face darkened   
as though exposure were analogous 
to a solar eclipse, private and utterly terrible.



[Anthony Lawrence has published sixteen collections of poetry, the most recent being Headwaters which won the 2017 Prime Ministers Literary Award for Poetry. Among his other awards are the Philip Hodgins Memorial Medal for excellence in Literature, the Blake Poetry Prize and the New South Wales Premiers Award for Poetry. He teaches Creative Writing at Griffith university, and lives on Moreton Bay, Queensland.]

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