'Sui Generis' by John Kinsella | States of Poetry WA - Series Two

It rained heavy, ridiculously heavy, when the heat
was at its peak, and then it went dry – the ebb & flow
of the surface-water, the water soaked deep. It’s
thin-on now, even vanished. A dry creeping towards
longer cold nights. The tank is down to 20 000 litres,
or thereabouts. And no clean air for weeks, as farmers
have burnt their tinderish stubble to ash, so volatile
the flames have mostly escaped, or been let go, to erase
‘shade trees’ in paddocks, and bush that has stuck
for legal reasons only. Fire, the trickster? It’s agony
to watch as we choke, eagles spiralling higher.

And the mistletoe birds are easing off, chasing those sticky
fruits on other hillsides. All that sunset collusion in the red
chest of the males – flashy, unexpected. But we notice
the females as often – no hierarchy of glory for us, though
they have their own codings, their own headrushes. But
while they were here, skipping unisex from mistletoe to mistletoe,
we were as ecstatic. And now at dusk, writing in dying
light, I sign off on almost four years of twists in the senses –
yesterday we heard a ‘new’ bird, and Tim found it singing
in the south-east corner of the block. A fantail cuckoo.
This map that won’t reveal the secrets. Try following it.

Between these poems there have – of course of course
been many others. Those of lost trees, and damaged wetlands.
Of animals crushed and extinguished. Of wars and conflict.
The emulsion of sinews and xylem and phloem. The fencers
who in the name of work! take out as much bush as they can
to lay down new posts, those stretches of taut wire.
All of that. Proximity, and in the catchment of our days.
And reports from further afield. The boats turned
back on the high seas – the drownings we no longer
hear of inland, just a couple of hours drive from the sea.

All of those closed doors. All those birds that won’t fly again,
as once farmers killed mistletoe birds in their droves,
arguing that in doing so they were saving the native bush
they’d clear the following week, month, year, decade.
All of us in this temporal lapse – unique, trying to breathe,
take in the beauty, filtering contagions we release ourselves.

John Kinsella

John Kinsella

John Kinsella

John Kinsella’s most recent volumes of poetry are On the Outskirts (UQP, 2017) Firebreaks (WW Norton, 2016), Drowning in Wheat: Selected poems 1980–2015 (Picador, 2016), and the three volume edition of his Graphology Poems 1995–2015 (Five Islands Press, 2016). His poetry collections have won a variety of awards, including the Prime Minister's Literary Award for Poetry and the Christopher Brennan Award for Poetry. His volumes of stories include In the Shade of the Shady Tree (Ohio University Press, 2012), Crow’s Breath (Transit Lounge, 2015), and Old Growth (Transit Lounge, 2017). His volumes of criticism include Activist Poetics: Anarchy in the Avon Valley (Liverpool University Press, 2010) and Polysituatedness (Manchester University Press, 2017). He is a Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge University, and Professor of Literature and Environment at Curtin University. With Tracy Ryan he is the co-editor of The Fremantle Press Anthology of The Western Australian Poetry (2017). He lives with his family in the Western Australian wheatbelt.

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