By burning the world's body, pulling off its wings,

its claws, by jumping up and down,
tearing the guts out of this Promised Land,

by having a fireworks display
to celebrate the disembowelment of one more hill,

red scoria spills. Greywacke, like raw offal
lumps into a river and the river clogs up at

every bend, a grotty oil seeps into the footsteps
of Esplanade walkers

wanting to appreciate the pink skies
hanging damply in blossom,

the cool invasive winds, the verges
packed with flowers.

Playing with fire has taken the freshness
out of the day. I have seen trees blackened, families

blackened to sticks on a burnt earth. I've climbed
sand dunes in paddocks

where sand dunes shouldn't be. Magpies
squawk hungrily. Suburbs fully furnished -

drop from cliffs room by room - the sea
gobbling them up. In this place

which promised much,
I find the eyeballs of people

turned to the stars. I stare at the Pacific
it grips my ankles as I contemplate

the next amorphous wave, the extinction
of long-beaked lovers of flowers, the last laugh

of an owl, khaki-feathered, written off.
In the Esplanade, children are dropping

like calves from the pods of plants.
This is how it is they instantly

jump up and inherit the earth
in their dying millions. In the Esplanade,

I rejoin the walkers sniffing at the delicious
fragrances of falling blossom.

I practise holding my breath
for as long as I can.





The business of isolation ...

opens the mind to all sorts of interference. If it's not
the weight of a storm dropping in, then
 
it's the subtle manouevreing of your presence upon
my hallowed turf, the place
 
I like to share with no one, the place
where no one is supposed to trespass.
 
But they do. You do.
You invariably arrive
 
when I'm at my most distant point of the compass,
when I'm standing where the river feeds the desert,
 
the grass dissolves into dust, the back alleys
of this town have been bulldozed into piles of roofs
 
and walls and smashed-up rooms,
demolished hardware which resembles my own.
 
A hard white sun
pulls fiercely on the last green trees
 
at the end of a road,
where street signs off-load their names. You arrive
 
talking of the pink magnolias
flowering in my garden. You say
 
you love the blend of rhododendrons and ferns,
the skeletal bronze statues stretching their necks.
 
You make a point of being with me
(and you haven't been asked), of tagging along,
 
as if you were the principal partner in my life,
as if I needed you. Well, I do. I do.
 
My home is similar to a drive-thru religious encounter
with a temple picking up its ruins.

You take hundreds of photographs
of a forest doing all the hard work,

trying to make things happen.
You hold on to me for as long as you can.
 
No one is supposed to follow,
but like invisible wind shifts in the dark,
 
they always do.





Indigenous Living

Children leap from trees
 
and like large birds, take off. The sky
 
swarms and bends with the weight of feathers.
 
It darkens and swirls in one body
 
spiralling upwards, one body sweeping the waves,
 
a frantically moving slick of language in flight.
 
The ground pushes up rooftops
 
and a self-perpetuating species
 
looks out from under a neon sun.
 
The world is clinging to the morning
 
and I'm not the only one taking pictures
 
of the winter solstice, of a woman
 
frozen to her washing line, two
 
icemen stuck in their car, a train
 
paralysed on a bridge. Pictures flash.
 
Red clouds clog lenses and four seasons
 
zap by in an hour. Pictures flash and imprison
 
what it is like to be caught in the rain,
 
in the wind, in the middle of a forest
 
with the best-looking girl in town ...
 
and she thinks nobody is watching.

I focus on anything that moves. I zoom in,
 
a flashing eye in the sky
 
and land on the flicker of a smile.
 
I photo-shoot all around and the trees
 
become heavy with children again.
 
The girl hangs in there,
 
as if I were suitably edible and essential
 
for survival until the next day.
 
She lives with me amongst the rocks
 
of a crater now crammed with homes
 
for the likes of us to go on tourist trips,
 
to stare at the world's wonders
 
through open doors and windows,
 
through the slits of letter boxes. She and I
 
never miss an opportunity to collect
 
intentionally dropped days
 
which have flown too close to the bright lights
 
of a sky too many. We search for signs
 
of indigenous living, for artefacts
 
to pass from person to person.
 




For Paul Gauguin's Vahine Picking Mangoes ...

only the best of the crop and standing on
tiptoe, tasting the yellowest,

the more pinkish ones off a branch.
Women in barefeet

run the beaches,
chasing the ground-scurrying images of themselves.

Small girls play
amongst plaited houses and jump

after coloured birds. I drink milk and
look at the boy who drops like a cone from a tree,

who disperses himself into a hundred smiles,
sidestepping the sites of family ghosts,

the crucifixes of wood and stone,
the scattered bones of old meals on wheels.

He hides from the sun's strong focus,
keeps to the streets of this cardboard town, mingles

with the crowds saturated in fruit juice, the men
with alcoholic shadows,

fat women sitting in the grass
weaving fatter hats, who sigh into rolled haloes

of nicotine, or laugh with their gums. At Quinn's
the tourists spend-up large - naked Polynesians

decorate walls - beads swing from masks - Paul
Gauguin lurks in the dark.

At Quinn's, brown skin sells best and the tourists
love it. I drink in the day

to complete a picture, a baby,
a family, an old man buried in smoke.

      Iain Britton 2007