New Shoots Poetry Prize 2016 winner: ‘Fallen Myrtle Trunk’ by Stuart Cooke

Fallen Myrtle Trunk

in the temperate forests, the wet
.              sclerophyll forests, where the wind
.                               moans in yourm leaves, a storm beating
.                                         in muffled drums at the entrance
.                                                  to the underworld, the lands
.                                                           of Gondwana, motherland of Australia,
.                                                               South America, the hundreds
.                                                                of years creeping, the moss about youm creeping
.                                                                 the growling thunder, the black sou’-wester
.                                                                 —by youm all this recedes, falls
.                                                                 like wilting springs

.                                                                 aged into agelessness, less
.                                                                 than age, giant
.                                                                 fullness, monoforest
.                                                                 bulk
.                                                                 of years and slowness
.                                                                 hint of snake while touch crumbles
.                                                                 like chocolate flakes, vibration vanishes
.                                                                 in yourm tomb, tombing
.                                                                 yourm slumber rots, beachwards
.                                                                 a giant petrified in light

.                                                                 imperceptible scuttle scattered
.                                                                 deeply, cavern hymns at
.                                                                  cave hertz, yourm august
.                                                                    specific music, cylindrical fugue
.                                                                       of dark brown scales, closed soft pink
.                                                                           to reddish grain, edified with mountain
.                                                                              ash memory, guardian of closed passage
.                                                                                    pillar of larger sky, of facts like clouds
.                                                                                                          their sky ways wending


youm known the songs of lonely places
.             the ways of wet and wind, youm moan
.                          of fire, unless the flames come slowly
.                                      for yourm return to drowsy
.                                                droning, the intoning
.                                                        of the wizard priests
.                                                              the sough of the southern seas
.                                                                 youm’re the stage before the sea
.                                                                 the ground’s stage, for all sea-yearning

.                                                                 yourm limbed stances
.                                                                 form too slowly for change, beneath
.                                                                 such gestures the black flock shelters,shadowed
.                                                                 in yourm underside, that invisible realm
.                                                                 of canal venom and webbed vein

.                                                                 to the light youm present carpet bridge, seedling
.                                                                 lives held by yourm unfolding descent, dark-
.                                                                  plumed monarch, ebony laced
.                                                                   with wing, by the mountain rills
.                                                                     down to the parched saplings
.                                                                        on the shore of a receding lake
.                                                                            youm know too much
.                                                                                of that escarpment beyond, rest
.                                                                                   pray, yourm beast prepares for return


while everything frizzes, shifts
.                 brushed and squeeze, sway
.                                     youm remain sound-
.                                                 like, a solid gradient an always
.                                                         line, travelling
.                                                             and unravelling through the same place

.                                                                yourm skin mimics lake ripple
.                                                                grooved rivulets criss-cross like thickened years
.                                                                currents of stone into softer solid
.                                                                edging damp, ripples merged with moss
.                                                                the land’s dry, soft with moss
.                                                                a surface of crawling speckleds, blood legs and
.                                                                black bodies, orange-like
.                                                                 fruiting bodies protruding from
.                                                                  yourm furry, whaled bulk

.                                                                   moss colony, moss scape, the stick shade
.                                                                     of a seedling wobbles
.                                                                      on yourm chest flecked with sonnet,leaf voltas
.                                                                                                their dark green, lost brilliance


then fresh reds, pinked to orange faded
.           ragged, triangled teeth
.                           and fruits of three small
.                                         winged nuts, subtle flourish
.                                                  of yellow-green catkins, now a mouthing
.                                                          eddy where a bough broke off
.                                                              airborne spores of wilt lulled by such knots
.                                                                have settled on yourm wound

.                                                                 one branch, there, pleads help
.                                                                 by reaching, others
.                                                                  arch hardened spines around gravity’s slide
.                                                                   while youm host the epiphytes
.                                                                     while the termites elaborate
.                                                                       yourm runnelled intentions
.                                                                         while moss slowly fingers, surrounds
.                                                                              slowly devours these juts of twig
.                                                                                    slowly devours its own ground
.                                                                                         which youm perform patiently for it

-Stuart Cooke

‘Fallen Myrtle Trunk’ contains echoes of the following poems:
‘Mountain Myrtle’, by Marie E. J. Pitt
‘Out of Sorts and Looking at Elms’, by Simon West


Stuart Cooke

Stuart Cooke lives on the Gold Coast, where he lectures in creative writing and literary studies at Griffith University. He has published collections of poetry, criticism and translation. His latest book, Opera was published by Five Islands Press in 2016. Stuart Cooke is the winner of the 2016 Gwen Harwood Poetry Prize.


‘Fallen Myrtle Trunk’: Zalehah Turner interviews Stuart Cooke