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.

Caucasian Haiku

A poem by Pete Hay

Published in ‘Silently on the Tide’ (2005)

In any village
Massacres in muddy fields.
Sorrow-ridden lands.

Tanks roll here, roll there.
Geopolitical tides.
Gentleness of boys.

Always ragged breath.
Always a footprint in moss.
Always a fraught song.

“Give me the music
Of the lost folk of Europe.”
Score the wind, wailing.

The sere autumn grass.
Secrets in walls, in steeped stone.
Mute and crawling light.

We are forgetting.
Sunken holes in the forest.
All that grows in blood.

Grievances tended.
Turnips in kitchen gardens.
Streets of boiled sausage.

Wolves, or rumours of.
You die young, or you should have.
The old fled children.

 


I had a small but not unimportant role in Richard Flanagan’s movie, ‘The Sound of One Hand Clapping’. I loved Cezary Skubiswewski’s proud and passionate soundtrack. I once asked Richard what instruction he gave composers who tendered for the movie’s score. His answer was ‘give me the music of the lost folk of Europe’. That striking remark inspired this haiku string.