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Lifting

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          que nadie lo miraba,           Aminadab tampoco parecía,           y el cerco sosegaba,           y la caballería           a vista de las aguas descendía.                                                     and there was no one watching,           neither did Aminadab appear,           the siege was lifting,           and the horsemen           at the sight of the waters           came riding down                                           Cántico spiritual, San Juan de la Cruz In 1504, in his early twenties, Zahīr ud-Dīn Muhammad Babur, descendent of Genghis Khan and of Timur, having been driven from his hereditary seat in what is now Uzbekistan, seized the city of Kabul. He made it the base from which he established the Mughal empire, comprising what is today northern Afghanistan, Kashmir, Assam, Bangladesh and most of India.  A love of war and literature  was   Babur’s inheritance. His father, Umar Shaikh Mirzar II, ‘a ruler of high ambition … always bent on conquest … [an

Listen

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my eyes are listening octaves inside the landscape echoes building earth sky each creature the shape of a passion ranged along lines that set me humming the way a voice rings metal double rainbow singing through hear it? we might be anywhere in the scale dropping from nowhere the young hawk practises arpeggios on the wind Just as the days begin to lengthen, a week of clear skies brings frost that lies all day in shady places and builds on itself night by night. Thin films of ice form on garden water pots and on the little shadowed dam to the west of the house but birds still come to bathe. Currawongs that weigh in at half a kilo and 10 gram fluffballs like fairywrens, more than ever now they all need the insulation of clean feathers.  Breath-clouds halo our heads when we step outside; in the morning, the dog spins in circles, delighted, and snaps up mouthfuls of frosty grass to toss around as if it were snow. Cows lie steaming and chewing cud, bodies aligned like solar panels towards t

Water work

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                                             This subtle touch releases the brightness.                                                             The Blue Cliff Record – Case 78. Trans. Joan Sutherland Rain blows in from the east, smelling of the sea over which it has passed. Soft, drenching, it continues for days until clear water begins to run in roadside drains; early one morning I disturb a brown falcon as it drinks what looks like bright air from the bowl of a puddle. The bird flies up, not very far, and turns its wild face to me as I pass. The winter creek flows loudly over and under the ground, disappearing into erosion tunnels, emerging yellow, foaming down along its course.  Depressions in the landscape become little lakes and in the boulder fields on kunanyi / Mt Wellington above the city of Hobart, a tarn appears that only fills during prolonged easterly rain, covering the round rocks of its bed with limpid bluegreen for a day or three. The water is breathtakingly cold but

Knowledge

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  “I told you a lie,” said Finegas to Fionn. “The Salmon of Knowledge was to be caught by me according to the prophecy, it’s true, but it was not to be eaten by me. It was given to you, dear son. Let you now eat up the fish.” The Boyhood of Fionn Birds give the danger-on-the-ground alarm and I see a quoll with an injured leg go limping through the garden, not bothering to stay under cover though it’s broad daylight. It’s a big male, worn out by two or maybe three years of fighting and mating; I know as soon as I see him that he’s looking for a place to die. But first he wants water. He goes to the little pool where a pot overflows into a rock hollow, easy to reach, secluded. Next day I hear ravens close to the house, on the ground where they never come, calling Strange! What’s that? and we find the quoll curled beside the water where he lay down after one last sweet mouthful. Close by, the clean bones of another quoll, almost certainly his forebear, who a few years ago also chose thi

Rivers

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   Fionn asked: “Would you have got as good poems by the Shannon or the Suir or by sweet  Ana Life ?”      “They are good rivers,” was the answer. “They all belong to good gods.”      “But why did you choose this river out of all the rivers?”      Finegas beamed on his pupil. “I would tell you anything,” said he, “and I will tell you that.      A prophecy was made to me that I should catch the Salmon of Knowledge in the Boyne Water.”      “And then?” said Fionn eagerly.      “Then I would have All Knowledge.”      “And after that?” the boy insisted.      “What should there be after that?” the poet retorted.                                                    The Boyhood of Fionn Chill damp, the smell of rain on the way, everything still, birds quiet. Then it’s here, a line, a band of sharp showers advancing from the southwest, breathing loud in the trees, rattling on roofs of sheds and houses. It runs off road surfaces, off compacted pastures, washing soil and gravel from disturbed gr

Readiness

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I catch the poems I am fit for … A man’s readiness is his limit. The Boyhood of Fionn   Four ravens annoy a grey goshawk. They don’t attack it but follow it around, landing where it lands, yelling ‘ Hawk! Down low! Here! ’ I track the sound and step outside at each crescendo when the hawk takes wing from tree to tree.  Without my glasses, hawk and ravens, brilliant in their contrast, look strangely magnified rather than diminished – unboundaried, unplaceable.  Moving leisurely, with an ‘Am I bothered?’ look, it ignores the ravens for an hour or more but is distracted enough to land at one stage in the big bluegum where brown falcons nested this year and they too get on its case.  Goshawks are ambush hunters that rely on concealment, their prey not knowing where they are; eventually, unable to hunt or rest, this one starts to look sullen, takes itself into the dense, soft greenery of a young wattle where the ravens and falcons can’t easily follow. There it sits hunched, a cabinet

Alive

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If trauma is untransformable experience, then any … belief [or] theory … that is simply abided by rather than personally transformed is akin to trauma. Adam Phillips   On a hot day, one of few this summer, small frogs sit at eye-level in the cucumbers and sparkle-stemmed tomato vines. They’re after whiteflies, tiny insects that appear in increasing numbers as the season progresses and crowd the undersides of leaves to feed on sap then erupt outwards like animated dandruff if their leaf is touched. As the heat intensifies, snakes and lizards disappear into whatever cool seclusion they can find. Small birds – thornbills, wrens, fantails – arrive all at once to drink and bathe in a garden water pot. Later, rain comes and goes as a thickening of fog off the sea and in it, wattlebirds talk. The pohutukawa tree has finished flowering but still the birds fly in to check – there’s not much else around. Garden grevilleas power on but I haven’t seen any eucalypt blossom despite the wet; mayb