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Famous Reporter # 33
 

 

 
DAEL ALLISON
 
                             two poems

 

 

      Lighthouse 1882

 
Science and endeavour reduced
to a failing point of flickering light.
No foundering craft can bear the
burden of defence against wildness.
 
All that light, 10,000 candles yet
no sight had through the battered dark,
and above the overturning rage of waves her
banshee wail; Help us John!
 
Beyond the useless light the night is
solid. Glued by keening air he is a
straining point high above the
grind of sea and rocks.
 
Palms and knuckles white, fear
has him clamped to the rail at the
trembling rim of the light’s eye
unseeing, ears straining to the din of sky.
 
Her voice a shadow slit in the searing
bright, shrill as tearing silk
rending life from him. Wife,
both sons, mind and heart unstrung.
 
All that is certain riven, driven by
wind shriek too soon upon the shore.
The earth lurches at the boiling brim
of sea. He leans to hear again her cry
 
and know it true; that here in the sky
at world’s end the world is ending.
 
 

Tasmania: Extinction Keening

 
West from India the granite swell
sloughs through sea-wrack
and off slick backs of seals
 
to broach this coast with a
slap and clattering of kelp.
Hunched against the ocean,
 
listing on another dreaming, our
hut leans into fretty layered midden,
shell-on-shell, another time
 
still sung in word and memory,
silt-bound and fused in sand. Grey
sea, sucked back through green-black
 
orifice, sliding deep down throat
of shell, is held at bay. Bleached
bull-kelp antlers big as walrus
 
bones stand guard; the barrow
beached and cached with shell and
shattered quartz, the monarchs
 
dead; shadow woman, tiger, saw-tooth
lake extinct, dragged down by sea wolves.
Rattling shell and stone chant battle
 
tales, off the soughing sea the mourning
western wind howls echoes of the dirge.
Along the shore a stilted keening bird
 
cries eternal ululation. Its fragile
skittering sand tracks write
ephemeral haiku.

 

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