In the scar of the flame
what we saved and what we couldn’t
are joined in luminosity.
Veiled in smoke we approach the centre
of our circle of blackened ground
fill glazed ceramic bowls with water
call in all the ways there are to call.

Chopped sweet potatoapple and papaya
stretch like trails of faceted gems
in this vigil of footprints
in boned ashes. We hunt
for proof of life
bandage wing, paw, head, leg
hammer together nesting boxes
sterilise everything all day.

The world is knitting pouches.
I peg them to the clothesline
over and overuntil it looks
like a Tibetan plateau framed
with fading flags.  It will take more
than prayers, more than pledges

to stop the burials. You draw a heart
in the dust and trace our initials in its cavity
as if the outline will hold the centre.
As if a window could protect the viewer
from the viewed. As if staring at the sky
would call the lost birds back to life.


after Frederick McCubbin’s Lost

Join the footprints of a magpie.
Follow a creek, curve to the right
toward the sound of a distant
waterfall. Notice the blue wren
tail high, sequined by mist
owning its branch, as the forest
debuts its third movement
of birdsong for the day.

Try to ignore the scars
minted on tree trunk
by knife and fire
and how the tiniest burr
can disable a foot.

Survival watermarks
a character forever.
A shoot must luminesce in ash.
A marsupial must learn to stall
the development of embryos
in times of drought.

There is a law of matter here
that is not meant to be broken.
Drop your arm, let go the stick.
Follow that bird and its shadow
there’s a new world in its beak.


One of us will come
under intersections
soaked with shock.

Beneath the thunder
the slow commencement
of sirens will part us

hundreds of pebbles
will turn over as a
16-wheeler rushes

over a bridge. A whoosh of air
will scatter diesel and moonlight
over a river that has accepted

the blood of birds.
One of us will come
inside shock, inside sirens

in the framework of bridges
though you will not see us
you will know us

when we come.

Jayne Fenton Keane