'Detracking the Body Examinate' by John Kinsella | States of Poetry WA - Series Two

We are thrilled to find evidence of roos returning –
after being driven out of the reserve and slaughtered
by hunters, the survivors are finding refuge at Jam Tree Gully.
The vestiges of the old mob. And maybe new mob driven
this way by hunters down on Victoria Plains. In the long grass
they hide. They make tracks and graze and flatten
areas for rest. They are maintaining out of sight.

I walk with Tim at a tangent to the house, up towards the north-
western granites. The grass is long and wild lupins have built
a platform and it’s a hidden area now with hungry reptiles
waking. Haven’t seen a snake yet, but just today I found
the burrow of a bungarra – could tell by the patterns
of digging, by the flicked dirt, by the slender reptilian scats,
by the fresh brown dirt divined and fomented inside the hill.

A few days ago, the first bobtail we’ve seen since
the days grew long enough. And sun skinks! The awakening.
And today, I forge a way through the grass, up and across,
and Tim follows in my wake, cautious, cautious. We don’t
walk the roo trails because, I say to Tim, The chance
of kangaroo-ticks is higher in those avenues, in those
boulevards, in their town squares. And, what’s more, they

have their town-planning, their architecture, their road-
work to respect – temporary is never less in its design,
its purpose. With pollen Op-arting our clothes, with
honeyeaters chasing each other to the four corners,
we are inside something beyond our design, and that’s good!
Spenser wrote of the ‘carcass examinate’, and before roos
showed themselves here again, before the bungarra

worked its burrow, before the nests came thick
and fast in trees around the house, and before we knew
for sure that the tawny frogmouths have territory
marked up by the red shed, we could not be sure
that the destroyers of land – omnipresent – hadn’t
succeeded, hadn’t wracked life from the body examinate.

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.

Leave a comment

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.

NB: If you are an ABR Online subscriber or contributor, you will need to login to ABR Online in order to post a comment. If you have forgotten your login details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to comments@australianbookreview.com.au. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.