'Philip Hodgins – A Dream', a new poem by Brendan Ryan

Philip Hodgins – A Dream


I walk toward a paddock bordered by cypress trees.
Philip Hodgins is on a tractor harrowing forty acres.
I can’t see his face but I know it is him
methodically going about his business,
navigating the terrain, driving into a diminishing
square, like the farmer in Dispossessed mowing lucerne,
driving rabbits and snakes into a disappearing centre.
Except here, windrows of dirt pile up in lines
behind the tractor, a symmetry of harrowed soil,
not unlike a Buddhist mandala, rippling out toward
the boundary fence in waves one to two feet high.
He gives the tractor some throttle. The windrows of dirt
are stopping me from entering the paddock.
I want to ask him about his lines
yet sense that I will never get close to him.
He seems to be on a mission to work the paddock
to its own manic rhythm. I measure my distance,
windrows of dirt brush against me.

In another dream he is holding a shotgun at me
pointing it between my eyes. He is looking down the barrel.
He seems tired, resigned yet determined.
This is about the time I am writing my thesis
on his poetry. His rhythmic lines intersecting in my head,
his untimely death, direct nature of his address –
there’s nothing in these dying days
consumes me and I live in two worlds,
grappling for an argument like a rock-climber
who has lost his footing, arms and legs flailing
for a ledge. He is looking down the barrel at me
pointing the gun between my eyes –
now it is up to you, to do this work
which confounds me. I am not up to
such direct statement, one of those moments
in a dream where I feel myself sweat,
wake soon after. A dream to burden the day –
his words, that stare down the barrel.



Published in February 2011, no. 328
Brendan Ryan

Brendan Ryan

Brendan Ryan grew up on a dairy farm at Panmure in Victoria. His poetry, reviews, and essays have been published in literary journals and newspapers. He has had poems published in The Best Australian Poems series (Black Inc). His second collection of poetry, A Paddock in his Head, was shortlisted for the 2008 ACT Poetry Prize. His most recent collection of poetry, Travelling Through the Family (Hunter Publishers), was published in 2012 and was shortlisted for the 2014 Victorian Premier’s Awards. He lives in Geelong, where he teaches English at a secondary college.