Come in, dead Emily.
Judith Wright, ‘Rosina Alcona to Julius Brenzaida’
All these lines we funnel, have need of.
The dead trouble us to live, and that can’t
resolve into images that don’t latch on
where ghosts wish for the tactile.
It’s where I procured the word ‘sullen’,
and it inhabited or infected
or leavened my early poetry –
another (who?) victim of vocabulary, affect,
and compliance of syntax.
dungeon of colonial heritage – trapped
with the sea at your feet, even inland.
Such lovers as struggle in private games
only able to meet in lines stretched
out from natural materials, the machinery
of war and violence. It’s all dispossession,
which makes the components no easier,
no more tolerable.
default settings, our hands on the wheel,
these truck-heavy roads we risk our lives on,
adding to the complement of waste,
unravelling of flora and fauna.
Here, it’s ‘crimson fields’
and mock freedom.
The greatest song
ever written is June Carter Cash & Merle Kilgore’s
‘Ring of Fire’ as sung by Johnny Cash – I knew
this at four, song recorded in my birth year,
and I listen to it now at Jam Tree Gully
fretting at world’s end as the dry
invokes the burns with permits,
the fallout of dead rain,
knowing I have loved severely
and with ignition where fire must be suppressed
most of the year – where Tracy and I counter
our presence with prayers
neither of us tell each other.
What is this house
but a vast collection of books on a hillside –
a repository for the conversion of memories
into inanimate whispers we stir to life?
the fiery cunt of the world, the fury
of mating that made the spectra
and resisted the chains
that bankroll & ratify
the death cult of official
We don’t really
need to know who Rosina Alcona
and Julius Brenzaida were, just stepping
out into an effusion of weebills & thornbills, ecstatic
with the possibility of rain four days from now,
measuring their lives in prospectus. We are fanatical
in ensuring no contamination from zone to zone –
so no Yorkshire moors soil is carried in on our shoes,
nor, really, in our heads, nor in the pages
of multiple editions of Emily’s poems.
But Gondal resonates with sleep,
messing up the rigour.
we made our way through,
whose lines remembered
come out at strange moments – moments
unaligned with what’s actually going on,
rubbing up against ordinariness.
the complexity of magpie talk
is so direct, intense –
redefining family for us, too: beaks
so perilous, they’d tear a ‘demon’s soul’
as much as the delicate songbird’s
Early warning system –
to survive the threats we make
rhizomes in dirt & rock where moisture
is so deep bores are needed to bring it up:
but we leave it down there, surface
Each day eaten
by transport, by moving particles
across a spectrum of surge & exhaustion
& hope. Those trigger words
of critical faculties.
obsession has nothing to do with themes
but everything to do with consistencies
only you and your collaborators
know. To break out
into the apostrophe, and refuse
to me as trees vanish across
the valley, excused by the contrivance
All of me, for what it’s worth
outside the market economy, is in the shed
bark of the York gum – ‘Yandee’ if it’s okay for me to say
(words can’t be taken at a whim, but need to be earned
within the conceit I am working here – to be clear: the Noongar
peoples have the rights of their own language, and I’m
not infiltrating via the bullshit conventions
of making lines of verse) – and in the bronze
tending copper-green sheen beneath, the fresh treeskin
waiting for the next rough layer of growth,
and those limitations
the English-language botanises. Emily, we’re
stuck on the far sides
of the same synapses
in this. Me, anti-
royalist, lost in the miasma of empire: yours, sort of?
No ‘empty world’
to contain this pain, to fill with the effluvium
of being carried along by traffic, compelled
to move or perish.
Each day I study the wasps’
mud cells, made from dirt and fluid
though all our throats are dry.
Nothing marvellous in this – but
I have loved-ones to tell, and that doesn’t
obviate a spider’s slow death
inside the darkness
where eggs hatch.
we tell to add up to a world
we might inhabit.
thinking of the water tank
down to last rungs, and/or a small
repair job on a hole worn into the gravel
driveway – steep, narrated by ants.
That’s why the call,
the reliance on where you’ve been
where you were. Are.
Author’s note: I have been writing ‘Emily’ poems since I was eighteen. This poem is one possible ‘end’ to thirty-seven years of searching away around her ‘fragments’ and ‘narratives’, which are about imagined worlds of selves, turned in the local. That something so far away in the imagination can rest so strongly on a physical experience of a particular place intrigues me. In the elisions of ‘the line’, a poem might draw so much into its vacuum, and Emily Brontë’s poems have always done this for me. The poems I have written over the years have been dialogues, diversions, escapes and confrontations with Emily Brontë’s originals. It’s the process of configuring an often threatening world that is intensely physically intrusive, and to which we physically intrude, within a shared narrative that protects us from ourselves that entices me. Stories are told as an act of survival, though elegy lurks (the status of ‘hero’ is more dubious than we might think). But in all of this, we venture into self-confrontations that are difficult to keep/maintain whole. For me, an opposite politics of world — mine being anti-imperial — but still a politics of interiority that I try to follow through the dark and shining places.