Even Still Lives . . .

Across glass across the rich pre-morning dusk,
quizzical and direct,
the mother stared, as did the hidden joey
through the peephole in her bulging fur-lined pouch ⸺
four wide bright kangaroo eyes
dead set against me staying even one minute longer
on my mattress on the floor
in stupid sleep. Frost
was in the air,
was all over in me,
any personal warmth quite dexterously extinguished
along goose-bumped human skin. But for all that,
mist lifted in shape-shifting sheets off the small pond
as if to say: See,
is on its way! And don’t go thinking
the feebleness of this sign
makes the outcome any less certain!
Saturn could shine for all he was worth
up towards the North, canary- or sulphur-yellow,
but these kangaroos had no time for him:
today, I was their object and nothing else on this Earth would do . . .
Dressed gingerly by now inside crumpled coldish clothes
I knelt and watched back,
humming absent-mindedly an old Swedish song
about a stable-boy called Staffan,
who was, no doubt, at another moment just like this,
watering sina fålar fem
his beautiful five young horses ⸺
probably wide-eyed to his every move,
maybe naturally starry-eyed, too,
as he made up his own tune out of hay scents
and the rank stink of piss
through the careful-tactile stages of his work ⸺
more to do with blind touch than sight ⸺
for the spark of life kindling again out of nowhere within him
in that frigid lidless twilight before dawn.

You can listen to one version of the Swedish song here.

Eastern Grey

Eastern Grey Kangaroo

So — here you are at the end of your health,
breathless — between ribs —for the first
last time in your life.
I can see now distinctly
that the sharp, black claws on your long narrow “hands”
would for me in the flesh mean gruesome pain,
or worse, and I wonder at the thick pads of skin
at intervals, like calluses,
on the underside of your massive tail: kangaroos too
have their thousands of secrets
they take with them back
to the Earth. At least
at last you died in the quiet of your own breath,
no victim of engines or the periodic cull.
At least at last
you were never mauled.
On a sheet of shade-cloth folded in two for strength,
we drag you away from the side of the dam
past a row of young trees instantly solemn at attention
out of the glare of relentless fox-
and eagle-eyed daylight. Death
and a radiant natural dignity
viscerally interfuse in the minutes-long lull
after your hastily improvised above-ground burial
when we still feel your weight, solid but fading, in the vivid dull ache
of our arms.

Photograph by Visit Grampians, http://www.visitgrampians.com.au