Cover image Rumours of Light by Judith Martinez (courtesy of the artist)

Transparencies was published by Black Pepper in April 2017.

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

  • Under the Radar
  • Spirits of Place
  • Twister

Under the Radar

Flaring and fading like the blips
That flash an instant on a radar screen,
The bellbirds’ brilliant little flecks of sound
Illumine and eclipse
The points where silence has been slung between
The branches of the trees. Such flimsy tips
To bear the weight it gathers on the ground.

As when you wade through water, slowed
And heavy, hardly able to progress,
Your senses, working through this thick dimension
Of stillness, share its mode.
Each leaf glint, shadow, bird note, each impress
Of foot on twig that snaps beneath its load,
More slowly but more clearly holds attention.

Once all the world was this. Alone,
And dozing through the spell of midday heat,
You register that chittering outside,
A neighbour’s telephone,
The drone of traffic on a further street,
The ticking house — each floated overtone
Dragged by the soundless groundswell that they ride.

And so it was when you were led
To where her barely conscious form lay waiting
And silence held the burden of the room.
And leaning by the bed,
You swayed in that abeyance, concentrating
To hear far off her scarcely warranted
And weightless breathing falter, and resume.

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Spirits of Place

Still clinging to the folds and bends
Along the little creek, hemmed in between
The fence lines, those brief ends
Of forest look pristine,

From back here, a refugium,
Not just of trees, but of the time before.
That is, until I come
More closely to explore.

Then through the undergrowth, itself
A tanglement of weeds, and in the creek,
Which pools from sandstone shelf
To shelf, at last to leak

Its half-choked and discoloured runnel
Over a sheared-off lip and then be lost
In a stormwater tunnel,
Lies, naturally, the tossed

And crumpled litter, bags and cans,
One rusty shopping trolley, a dumped fridge,
And a length of pipe that spans
The gap beneath the bridge.

And overhead the clouds are cuds
Of sodden newsprint and the sky is drowned
In the dun sludge that floods
The hollows in waste ground.

But over there, on that expanse
Of grass, four herons, utterly self-possessed,
Stand still, and then advance,
And come again to rest,

Absorbed behind the light as they
Inspect the stations of the slope and swale,
And all around the day
Is hanging like a veil.

With slow and ghostly pace they wear
The folds of that grey fabric they step through,
The air, or more than air,
Which seems their substance too.

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A reeling blank propped up against
The stretched and livid backdrop of the sky,
It rips, black and top-heavy, through the fenced
And farmstead-mottled plain a path,
This turbine two miles high
Of empty energy
And aftermath,

Sucked spinning through its hollow core
And flung around a giant centrifuge,
Uprooted trunks and branches, a barn door,
A roof the spooling pressures force
To orbit in a huge
And planetary sweep,
The odd doomed horse
Or sheep.

A planetary sweep. And so,
Our planet rides the empty gale of space
Around the solar system, which with slow
Aeonian rotation runs
The light years round, to chase
The vast galactic storm
Billions of suns

And whirling at the galaxy’s
Crushed hub, they say, a vortex, a black hole
Is hauling light in, stardust, the degrees
Of Kelvin, spacetime and dark matter,
Beyond the last control
The laws of physics sought,
To tear and shatter,
And make nought.

And so the world. And so the mind
Coils in the gyre of its own consciousness,
Touching on matter to drag up and wind
Around itself (or wind around
The infinite recess
It keeps dissolving in
And is not found).
Here spin

The scene, the utterance, the face,
The sequence, dates you strive to reconcile,
Emotions you unfold, feel and replace,
Midnight obsessions you defer
To your enigma file
And hope the day will solve —
They turn, recur,

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