Michael Witts: 5 Poems

THE SHEARWATER

watching through the dazzle of a low slung sun
its gyre revealed in parts
repeated fragments betray the whole

holiday postcard
heads bob in the tinsel sea
fish swarm without menace
waves casually slap the sand

wings retract a stuka drops
vertically into the clarity below
bubbles stream in its wake
its hooked beak flaring silver
startling swimmers lolling there

its ponderous flap
body skimming the surface
before momentum releases it
back to its element
and the precision of the hunt

**

HYMN FOR OUR DAUGHTER

I
if you look hard enough you will find one
the fourth leaf so contrary
it startles in a vast field of clover

taking one daughter’s sage advice
her sibling and I look and see one
straight away

invited to make a wish
I cannot disclose
I want for nothing more than this

II
we follow the switchback trail
down the fold of the gully
you place crossed sticks you’ve collected
at each turn ensuring our safe return
playing Gretel to my Hansel
as if we faced some threat
you need to protect me from

the bush thickens to swallow us
we cross the creek
pause beneath
the sandstone overhang
teetering like a great wave
embracing us nevertheless

trying to imprint this moment
putting you and I together forever here

III
at birth I could almost
hold you in the palm of my hand
your future coiled like a fern
unfolding with mathematical precision
Fibonacci making a lie of the complexity
of your potential

see the crosier in that coil
the shepherd’s hook in that crook
the unfolding wonder of that unfurling

IV
we climb the grass flank of “the Skillion”
crouching like a beast
heads bowed against a malignant Pacific Ocean
slung binoculars ready to sweep
that great metallic sea
searching for the promised humpback
heading north

once I heard them sing
passing close to shore between Maui and Moloka’i
in another lifetime

under water their calls become song
strange lamentations given meaning
sparse grunts endowed with wisdom
beyond just I am coming through

V
our sense of wanting to belong
to be a part of something greater
let no-one take from you
this wondering

**

CREPUSCULARITY

skulking
emerging from
the dark nocturnal
with that idea bright
clarity
that startled bolt
brilliance
until you attempt
to bottle it
to assemble its entrails
on a page
blighted by light

versed in silence
chair turned
against the view
the better to read
with afternoon light
fading behind

deep in introspection
not saying anything to anyone
in particular
not seeing just imagining
how it might work

the slow recessional
heading to the darkness
blinded by the glare
seeking definition
in the shadows

the evening betrays
words scuttle
into their own order
insects reassemble
to some unknown plan
the spine of the book
the fold of wall and floor

axes awaiting dawn
and the turning of a page

**

FOR STEVEN

I
the true supplicant
seeks eternal balance
in a tent by the creek
forsaking most things we crave
sleeps by an open fire

embers smoke the frozen dawn
where the gums arch towards the light
a cathedral in which to dwell
a kingfisher opalizes the water

hard to be humble
when this is all you own

II
wakes at dawn naked
struts the polished floor
of the house he designed and built
imposed upon the land

wonders at the majesty
of the range folding
lustily upon itself
like a lover
hard not to be challenged
by this act of dispossession

the greed of
trying to own all this

**

MANGROVES

that timeless summer
three marauders hop from aerial root to root
trying to avoid the shoe sucking mud
sticks prod crabs and mudskippers
as they wait for the tide to turn

by low tide they own these mudflats
intersection of creek and river refined

lines in the ooze
slurp and lurch of steps
air thick with bugs
sun burnt migrant skin
sulphurous tracks
the animal shape of roots
coming up to breathe

remnant sandstone blocks
outline a boatshed jutting into the water
enough to drive out the last
of the Wallumedgal one hundred years before
the lines food sources disrupted
connections and links
with seasons past and future obstructed
the sheltering sandstone overhang exposed

three boys with sticks digging
a mullock heap nearby
oblivious to the midden
generations in the making
of oysters and shells discarded
food and cutting tools extracted
pirates in their bubble

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Michael Witts was born in Wales and now lives in Sydney. He has been publishing poetry since the early 1970s. He was a founding editor of DODO magazine and the Fling poetry series. His three volumes of poetry are Sirens, South and Dumb Music. His poetry can be accessed through michaelwitts.com

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