A new year ahead, full of potential, energy and disappointment with moments of clarity and elation no doubt for Flying Islands poets.
Jan 1 2021
Alone. Moon brimming as she parachutes
into the Nature Reserve, the estuary now
a wasteland of sand and sticks and logs
and stingray hollows, new lagoons formed,
the river has shunted north a hundred metres
another place entirely, in just a day.
Clouds slip through the fingers, the radius
extreme, the movement incessant
and my feet slip on the ribbed sands
and I look 360, focus slips from trees
to moon, to water in low tide quiescence
to sky’s blooming choreography.
We are never alone. A Striated Heron flies silently
across the old mouth, black on black, sounds
of laughter carry down the river, a party
of overnighters, seeing in the new year with alcohol,
their togetherness out of sight. A golden crinkle
reveals where Helios is hiding and will arise.
When he does the beam zips down the sea
and along the flattened river to anoint me
and my lens, my work, this solitary concord by river,
sea and sky, a vast altar offering Magpies flying down
to rifle the stretched beach and silver whistling fish
clearing invisible hoops in the two new lagoons.
I jump ephemeral infiltrating tributaries, my right knee
winges, so many people died last year, the ones
I knew had cancer. None of the 1.8 Million
strangled to death by COVID I knew that I know.
Life intensifies on a small butterfly flying the wrong way
out to sea, its wavering flight seems uncertain, in the last
days of 2020 an earthquake killed people, a landslide
killed people, a volcano might have killed people, what
lies beneath the soil and sand is ready to surprise.
We live in a continual state of war, war on the Coronavirus,
the war on terror, a war on drugs. Vehicles killed people,
and bombs, bullets, missiles, knives all killed people.
I’m alive, standing on a sleeve of schist some think
could be classified as living in some minimal sense,
on an island, a huge island from an aerial perspective,
Gumbaynggirr stories explain the details.
Another year, a new year not really, this estuary
measures time differently, by the tides,
by pluralities and patterns of rainfall, climate
change, human engineering ‘solutions’.
Can this text ever enter this world of magic, of tidal
imperatives, bird animations and fish ripples, mollusk
tracks and crabs, their hidden lives surrounding me,
their sandy spoils and bings, and the stingrays’ absence?
Space written, instead of place, a hand-held camera
has no sense of the text, no sense of my weight sinking
into the Earth each step. I holster the machine, breathe
arms out, horse stance. This year is one that will age me.
I have been to so many countries, landed here and now
have no wish to be anywhere else. This enormous room
is home, my strategy is a quiet life paying more attention
to the intimate details, not a new year resolution.
Experience has fallen in value, amid a generation which from 1914 to 1918 had to experience some of the most monstrous events in the history of the world . . . A generation that had gone to school in horse-drawn streetcars now stood in the open air, amid a landscape in which nothing was the same except the clouds and, at its center, in a force field of destructive torrents and explosions, the tiny, fragile human body. Walter Benjamin
Walter Benjamin, ‘Experience and Poverty’, Die Welt im Wort (Prague), December 1933.