FOR CON KIRILOFF
I stand in a house of trees, and it is evening:
at the foot of the stairs, a creek runs grey with sand.
A rocking, unending dim sound,
a racket as if of a train,
wears through my sleep, and I wake
to find it late afternoon
at which I sit up, rub my eyes —
beneath us, the carriage-wheels moan
on their winter-wet, wind-polished rails,
but the train hurries on, hurries on.
The loco horn beams out its admonition
at a weatherboard village standing on the fields.
The near hills rise steeply and fall,
the hills farther off settle down:
I light up a cigarette, wipe
my breath from the cold window-pane.
The upland farms are all bare,
except where dark, storm-matted fern
has found its way down from the heights,
or landslides have brought down raw stone
for, outside, it's silent July,
when wet rocks stare from the hills
and thistles grow, and the rain
walks with the wind through the fields —
and this is my country, passing by me forever:
beyond these hills and paddocks lies the world.
Outside, it is timeless July,
when horses' hoofs puncture the chill
green ground, mud dogging their steps,
and summer's plough sleeps in the barn,
when rabbits camp up in the mouths
of flooded burrows, and dogs
under creekbanks wince at the thump
of a gun fired close to the earth.
The cold time, the season of clouds
beyond the end of the year,
when boxwood chunks glare in the stove —
but that is the past. I am here.
I look across the clear, receding landscape:
from a distant ridge, a horseman eyes the train.
The train never slackens its speed:
and iron bridge echoes, is gone,
on the far bank, twilit and tall,
the green timber gathers us in.
And we dash through the forest, my face,
reflected, wanders and sways
on the glass of the windowpane, and
I press my nose to my nose …
the loco horn sounds far across the uplands:
a man with no past has all too many futures.
I take out a book, read a phrase
five times — and put the book down.
The window-sash chatters. My mind
trails far in the wake of the train
where, away in the left-behind hills,
through paddock and cattlecamp I
go drifting down valleys towards
the peopled country of sleep …
I wait in the house. It is raining in the forest.
If I move or speak, the house will not be there.