Cover image Paperbarks by Patricia Roche

Exhibits of the Sun was published by Black Pepper in July 2014.

The following four poems from the book are displayed on this page:

  • All Eyes
  • The Trance
  • Euroka
  • The Angel of History

All Eyes

(Author’s reading)


Look, look, it says, and peels away the night
As it flies on. And there,
A ghostly Ferris wheel frozen in space,
Saturn comes looming at the satellite
With all its shattered rings of icy lace
Exquisitely beyond repair.

So much to see. And now the vast moon, Titan,
Fills the compulsive lens.
Descending through the folds of orange fog,
It peers among the marvels to enlighten
A distant world’s attention, all agog
For each new vision that it sends.

Out there, some twenty billion light years hence,
Too far for light to serve,
Who knows what sown and pullulating planet
Has come and gone, an ark of evidence
Interminably circling where it cannot
Be salvaged by the optic nerve?

The fossil in the paginated book
Of shale that once was slime
Falls open and cries, Look. And these sunflowers —
Their yellow is the synonym for Look,
Though they’ve no word for weary or the hours
The sun has summoned them to climb.

Was it for this the aeons fashioned us?
To look and make it so?
The moth wing’s intricately subtle scales,
The fleck of matter in the nucleus
As light as light, your face which never fails
To show me what I cannot know.

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The Trance

As on that vacant Saturday
The gale kept feeding through the canopies
Like timber through a mill,
Spewing away
Millions of airy splinters, while the trees
Swayed on, spellbound
In their majestic ignorance, until
A ton of trunk snapped off and struck the ground.

And nothing changed. Along the path
The walker who might find this evidence,
Or even constitute
Its aftermath,
Was nowhere to be seen. Chill and immense,
The wind blew on,
The still distracted trees were resolute,
The fluctuating sunshine failed and shone.

And watching from the kitchen, I
Recalled the storm I walked in daylight dark
From school, when I would swear
The volted sky,
Discharging through the green of the drenched park,
Sent one swift ghost
Of brilliance flashing past my lifted hair
To strike the earth six feet away, at most:

The ghost I might have been. Four weeks,
And fluctuating in her consciousness,
My mother seems to see,
Sometimes, and speaks,
And sometimes turns to silence to express
This narrative
Of damage that she is, the injury
That calls her back unthinkingly to live,

And not to live, to close her eyes,
And open them to see, and not to see.
And outside nothing changes.
Without surprise,
The sun displays its gorgeous jewellery
Across the spread
Of harbour, as it heartlessly arranges
Over the bluffs and bays of Middle Head

The silken trance it’s spun and shed.

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A few light sounds:
Water on rocks, the creaking scuff of boughs,
Wind in the lofted leafage that surrounds
And overarches this
Lit shadow-hatching, and, now here, now there,
Odd interjected birdcalls to arouse
And keep the mind aware
There’s nothing here it can afford to miss.

Walk one last bend:
The stone-tiered forest drops a hundred feet
To meet the river. On its far side ascend
Great shelves and sheared-off blocks
Of sandstone, stacked up higher than the hill
You’re watching from, a concentrate of heat—
The solar process still
Somehow unfolding in the solid rocks.

Silence. It comes
To you: all this is made of silence. All
The patchwork tonnage of millenniums,
The sun-built cliff, the trees
Which reeve the boulders to the sky, the wide,
Light-dusted river that’s about to stall,
So slow its downstream glide:
You’re spellbound by inaudibilities,

And simply sit
To wait possession out. Now every sound
That skiffs your hearing till you notice it—
The strokes of air that comb
The foliage, the freshets, birdsong sketches —
Emerges from and forms a mesh around
That silence, where it stretches
Suspended like a geodesic dome.

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The Angel of History

(Author’s reading)


after Walter Benjamin

So with his mouth agape,
His wings outstretched and feeling for the air
As masterfully as a bird of prey,
And a fixed stare
Of mingled fascination and alarm
Before the onset of some shape
Unfolding at the same pace as the day
A present and impending harm,
He reaches out as he is forced away.

His face is to the past.
And all those brief, ambitious episodes
Strewn out—achieved, or botched, or incomplete —
Along the road’s
Unravelled pageant that we both project
And roam through, are to him one vast
Impacted havoc which the years accrete
And slowly heave up, fused and wrecked,
Like Himalayas hurled before his feet.

Oh how he longs to stay
And wake the dead and make those ruins whole.
But a storm is blowing out of Paradise
That has control
Of his spread wings and, growing ever huger
And wilder, bends him to obey,
And for his contemplation pay the price.
He’s swept away into the future,
To which his back is turned — his task, and vice,

But to record, not to restore, the toll.

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