Beautiful Firetail

A poem by Pete Hay

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.             Wounded sun, light leaking down.
Winter rules the growling beach, this treacherous
stretch I have trudged, lead-footed, with the dog.
It is ungraspable, a thing of surge and storm,
.             of sly, surreptitious shift.

.             In the wide dry land
beyond this island off an island off an island,
fates are being ravelled. Today,
broken and fretted as the island edge,
.             we vote.

.             The body politic
hacks and gripes. Switch metaphor: to clay
resisting the mould of fractious opinion, porous,
wanting adhesion. The sand wraps me in guilt.
.             Somewhere there should be paradise.

.             Guilt, then, its vague dis-ease.
Is it down to the cruel and joyous, grit-gripped wind
as it scalpels the dimpled Channel water?
It is a day to be as out of sorts as the nation.
.             It is not a day for metaphysics.

.             I trap the dog,
tramp the dune hollow to the shack-shackled road,
stride north, the dog Larry-happy on his string.
The wind is trapped within taut morning pines
.             cleaving beach from road.

.             Wetland
backs the creek, enjoys its sodden carnal time,
its temporary teal, nut-breasted, its lapwings,
the white-faced heron, mere sharp stick,
.             steeled and angled suspicion.

.             Ugly scrark of wattlebird.
Cuticle moon in a wasted sky. Stiffy’s Creek
is beach-strangled, scumbrous; the dog, thirsting, pulls for it.
But there is a tussocked secret on the bank. It springs forth,
.             a lightning strike of light,

.             shakes out glory,
its flanks barred like a comic burglar, eyes anime-round.
It flimmers the sedge, a pure unlikely package,
a miniature brilliance to catch the breath. It bares
.             the signature arse,

.             the ruby mooning
of a bird of peerless verve. The firetail
unstoppers the balm of love, celebrates, as it seems,
the fathomless flair of nonconforming
.             splendid life.

.             We reach the creek.
Here is the firetail’s curtaining reeds. At the road’s verge,
car-struck, blood-beaded, is the firetail’s cold mate,
all painted ruined love, this flight, I now see, a fleeing grey grief,
.             a heart-clutched death.

.             We vote.
We order our silly, futile affairs,
launch our budgeted assault on the quick and tangled world.
Our works puff us up. I stare upon beautiful death.
.             Know it too real.

All the Beautiful Dead

A poem by Pete Hay

Published in ‘Physick’ (2016)

 

Down dark corridors

the beautiful dead

step from their rooms.

 

They watch me pass.

They would have me stay,

hear their imperative word.

 

Where there are tails,

tails bob like nodding-grass –

I do not know what they mean.

 

Those who stand erect plead

with eyes of portent,

of expectation.

 

Some venture a smile,

their smiles slight

and uncertain.

 

I do not know what it is they want.

I pass on by

and know this as failure.

 

Their eyes brush my back

with gentle, knowing

reproach.