MARTIN HARRISON


Martin Harrison's Wild Bees: New and Selected Poems (University of Western
Australia Press) appeared in 2008. He died of a heart attack at the age of 65.
A note by the editor, Cyril Wong, on Martin: "We spoke over coffee during
the Byron Bay Writers Festival in July 2008; an older gay writer talking to
a younger queer poet about music and language. He was gentle, generous,
a giant intellect—I miss him."






Double Movement

No meaning to this wave's presence or its impact: it rides in and over corrugations and inlets, over gulleys.

Like something which is stretching, like something which is being tightened, it draws the skin away from the bones, it pulls the face away from the teeth. It stiffens a twig no less than it hardens a dead animal's pelt. You touch what is soft and it has the brittleness of porcelain or crude, baked clay. From this point on, what stands out are the scars and the runnels, details and small clefts, grazes and abrasures. Microscopic rock falls and dust cascades: this incinerating blanket of shelterless sunlight makes everything easy to dislodge. Convection walls of heat stream upwards from rock surfaces. But then, take your breath on this slope—stopping among its thin scattering of casuarinas and eucalypts—and look around at where, everywhere, it's as if invisible contours have been revealed, almost as if a tide, far from arriving, has gone out and you can now see the timbers of long-ago fallen trees, the small reefs which are stone outcrops, areas which make entrances, others which make shelves. A litter of dead, straw coloured grasses is what's left of covering for the ground.

*

"Contours get revealed as if the earth is sagging down over the ground's frame, rocks and fallen logs suddenly visible"

"In the back of the mind, each flicker of wind gets picked up for a hint of rain or fire—studied, turned over, tossed away—given up for being one of those wandering curlicues of air which intense heat brings on"

"They can breathe around you, those small wind-rushes....like a straw tickling your ears or your arms"

*

Expectation builds on drifts of high-up cirrus. A single angophora branch hangs out, zigzagging like a lightning streak. It seems to move

*

So a shore of windless air, invisible as a gigantic measurement is invisible, does nothing—arriving from pre-dawn stillness, turning, arching, building its silver light. What's taken away are the stem-work and light-work of complex, living forms "vague mist turns to nothing, heading east" It's like losing the ability to see a family or a village or the contour of an object; you lose a capacity to see how things hold in themselves an energy or desire. Material and lace-work, material and mud-work, soil so dry that it's cracked into patterns like crocheted linen, wood which white ants much into dirt: yes, but the deafening quality of this atmosphere is the brutal way in which things are turned into material. Things can be expended, conglomerated, glued together, burnt away. What you see is what you track. The only deep green shade is the flicker of a female king parrot's back and wings against the blonded haze of grass and ground.

Right now, this reductiveness reaches as far as the willingness to risk life. It has so many features outside in the air but it becomes an internal state, a state of mind: a state of disintegration in which you fear to put something out (a tendril, a swelling which is a bud) and risk its death. In the human world too, a dry force is introduced, one which requires everyone to acknowledge a separateness in the relations between living things, in how one person values another. Shadow is evaporate. Shadow no longer reaches as far as the likelihood of one's own survival. What we cease to understand, have never understood, is how places like this have a history of such tentativeness, decade by decade. (The people who were here, who lived here way back, knew this.) Momentarily, everything is dismantled, torn apart, dried down to its own dust, locked in a dream of how that parrot's cry, instinctive as a shower of rain, is jetted sideways under the intense sun's blue burn



Back to Front.