Robbie Coburn: Six Poems

Rodeo

And now the day clearer
in the unthinkable, nameless air
where I may have died in the night
and you are not alerted and not questioning.

I remember you here as you are there,
the way your heart murmurs as if it were unbalanced
and not a part of you
that midnight’s calamity to the arrival of hands
carrying you towards your flesh
and mine.

one night you dreamed you were older
and saw the house burning around you
the walls shrinking as you began tearing them away –
the night was too dark for you
and I was never born
in that hell eclipsing your birth.

remember we would wish time was not illusory
and not drenched in all the lives we had lived before
the unforgiving landscape where time buried us
in the whitening night air.

what did you call me and what did she feed you
that I could not counter
that parasitic voice you willed into our lives
which burns my skin at this distance.

within you and from where I am
in the dawn burning away beyond your gaze
where I have died and been forgotten in an instant.

I see it all, believe me.
from where I am lying
I have never loved you.

I can see my sleeping body vanishing
where all the eyes have hungered for
becomes as it always was.

even you
I see even the emergence of catastrophe
ultimately means nothing

even the connected bodies mean nothing.

**

Pasture Floor

Words are not chosen
in the breaking of our emberless dawn,
the weatherboard house collapsing
beneath winter’s drive of dark rain.

no one here
as depression’s shade again encroaches
in the dying light –

the stilled air beyond this room,
where wild brumbies begin to move
silently between us
progressing into the distance

as outside, two years ago,
an unbridled stallion we cannot name
runs until it is lifeless.

**

A Dead Horse

There is a paddock I love in particular
where the grass no longer grows,
too long trodden under the weight of horses
and resigned only to dirt and depressions in the earth.
and the foal my father reared, who died in infancy
buried somewhere there, each eroded furrow
like the scar of a tongue crying to be heard
as words betrayed me and rendered me lost once more.
wind revolves like a mare’s breath across the pasture
in the land I know which you refused to walk;
the burnt earth lined by hoofprints
as I walk further from myself to find you.
and being unable to touch you now,
all we ever knew of one another
like that foal’s corpse concealed in the earth.

**

Leaving Song

I cannot love you here.
fragments of cinder begin to fall.
it is winter and the night is coming faster.
I could not see the air escaping, saying
there is life beyond this room,
the notion of longing for this space
when it becomes irretrievable
and the emptiness of arriving there.

I have thought about leaving, again
the knife to my throat in the drive of the day’s arrival,
feet crossing the street towards everywhere and nowhere.
I have not told you
before, your eyes collapsing and never returning,
the way I love your body
when I am no longer holding it there

and of the earth opening around you
where you are not sleeping
when you are not here.

**

Brand

Most of the time the paddock opens around you when you reach its centre,
the grasses and concealed pathways at your feet barely contained by the wires
the dying trees and eroded dams, and the veins of the city still years away.
interminable silence from every side before great cracks appear in the clouds
above your head, widening as a dark rain enters the morning
then the slow run of startled cows gathered on the hillside in the distance
on the next property you must never cross.

back at the farmland’s mouth, progressing down the driveway
as you follow the noise, watching the horses being ushered
into the stockyards beneath the teeming rain
and lead into the corral where he holds the smoking, steel poker;
that blackened doorway suddenly closing with the sound
of flame bitten by the water’s surface.

you will remember and hear it again, years later,
the way the horse had fallen and cried out, it’s mouth almost human.

**

Foals

The truck’s tires persisting
down a country road
and entering the property.

we make it home
the Winter rain unchanging,
and morning turning

from the float
towards the horse yards.
I loved to study the hoof prints

washed away and refashioned by yours
as you walked ahead,
the silence dissipating slowly

as I followed you
your gumboots making a space
for our feet in the wet grass

like two newborn foals
teaching one another
how to walk.

**

Robbie Coburn’s poems have appeared in places such as Poetry, Meanjin, Westerly and Island, and his collection The Other Flesh was published by UWAP in 2019. Rochford Press published Before Bone and Viscera a chapbook of Robbie’s work, in 2014  . A limited edition volume entitled Equestria is forthcoming from Polar Bear Press (which will include the above poems), as well as a non-fiction work entitled Cowboy Showground: An Essay on the Whittlesea Rodeo. His website is www.robbiecoburn.com.au