Richard Hillman

Made in Manningham

This steady sun circles to the peninsula left
of the old front patio, and statues map shadow-length
prostrations across a rented lawn. A lizard dances
from shrubbery, stops, and is gone in one head movement.

We nurture the ceremony, make names up for blue tongue
as the sun sets beyond Muller Road and the smell of our humanity.
In our minds we might raise token feet to the closest star
and dance farewell; instead we make like that lizard

and lift our heads in unison before leaving. Perhaps too easily
we trust what tomorrow will be. Each day runs into the next
and these movements, like the opening and closing of automated
doors, are left to the technicians of mystery to ponder.

My mother was scared of snakes and lizards the way British
women are tormented by field mice. She told me stories about
toilet snakes, and how lounge lizards were no different, though,
I never believed her after seeing all those coiled things glassed

in formaldehyde on the science teacher’s desk. They seemed
harmless enough in the snake catcher’s hands, objects to be studied
in those glass enclosures at Taronga, or basking in the concrete pit
at Gosford Reptile Park. And denying the Freudian equation

my fascination for lizards wasn’t a refusal of my mother but
a connection with the living I thought she’d never understand.
I see her now as if she were the drover’s wife watching out for
that snake, though, she no longer has any children to protect.

Sometimes I remain behind when the others leave, think about
that lizard beside me - long gaze lowered - on hands and knees
I can almost hear her breathing, twist my head when the children
interrupt, whisper good-bye as if a word will suffice, then leave.

Gulf Thaw

Static to stealth as two yellow
& black snowmen go brink to blink
in Mexican standoff at the edge
of a honeycombed desert waiting
for approval ratings to thaw & cross-
pollinate in cold scatter formation
sunlight & its biological warnings.

The ice
melting, somehow, melting.

Through soft layers of buzzing sand
& debris of archaeology eroding
dermis-thin corrugations of wax
frozen years among the sound dunes
where snapped tuft & tussock weave
in & above the trauma blue earth.

The water
sinking, somehow, sinking.

Below freedom's zero ground
we give life to the Annie doll
as if she were an incubus rolling
back the sticky stone of History
though in the thawing mirror
we watch devotees on padded knees
hiding behind their beehive masks
and count their stings on pink clipboards
hung from champagne necks.

The light
dissolving, somehow, dissolving.

Tender tracers or white gulls
announcing in tumbling moonlight
the shape of something less
than this shadow of permanence.

The blood
flowing, somehow, flowing

back into their realer than real eyes
back to that point between darkness
& dawn where all things swarm
with the possibility of peace

& silence.

Kooloonbung Creek Protest
(Port Macquarie, March 2004)

Flying Foxes Blacken Sunset: I read
this denuded headline upright
in park bench land, face hidden
in newsprint of shrieking sky.

Look up! two hundred thousand march
in twilight protest, traverse swift echo
air currents to bring us The Melaleuca News:
overcrowded cells, twist and tangle of ti tree
plantations, barbed wire borders, shortages
of fruit blossom, insects, and chainsaw
strip searches along the food trail.

Two hundred thousand fly in DNA formation,
black spiraling canvas of uncut claw,
wing beat above Macca’s latest theme park:
Royal Zoological Society receives
sonar of rabies claims whilst reading
'Ethical Issues in Wildlife Management'
the poster on the wall advertises
Animal Welfare Training Day, Please
Register Your Dog — rowers, bikes
and treadmills. Picture of grinning vet
with white rabbit eyes states 'experiments
are conducted in the most humane way
possible' - degrees of humanity and
space for Peter Singer to speak, though
his pearls fall on deaf ears.

Look up!! Tonight’s banner states
something is coming to an end.

Interrupted by Dust Storm (4.3.2004)

don't know what became of them
will spare them
or give them away
nothing hospitable lies here

that's how I feel now

my arm aches in general shrinkage
throat blooms algae green smoke shapes
rising from hiroshima day bay
ashes blown dry on eucalypt scale
toxin high among rutting koalas

a snake skin shed & desk
littered with creosote cans

whether they achieve
or don't
are knowable
or sublimely impossible
marginalised mainstreamed in between

position has nothing to do with doing
we do not have to consider all the options
we already know what we should do

you just can't get your lips
around this
FULL speech
(as real as) aesthetic brush
with law & aquatint symmetry
global premise [as dismissive as]

it must come soon
the rain
do you remember how it rained

some people expect narrative

weightless in sydney
signage wasted away
to a mere grey nothingness

& everything
we could think of we did
not come home straight away
sparrow dead in your hand
& water in its eye made
it almost look alive

who is not a paradox
has left the building

we investigate because there are no answers
[toongabbie flash flood/bridge closed]
intelligence means something entirely different
[waiting beneath shopfront awning]
the motif is a break from the indistinguishable
[terrorist huddling for pie & beer]
capture is a convoluted paper koan
[boat beneath the murray-darling junction]

canoe tree semantics
& no, Alice doesn't live here anymore

the dust storm has arrived
sometimes closing doors and windows is a necessity

I Am Not Indifferent To This Hot Weather
Nor The Lack Of Fresh Water In This Country

For Jeff Dale

The steep descent behind the cabin in Crafers
leads trackwards -- following no stream my eyes
discern the possibility of thirst, catching breath
in eucalyptic gulps, dry dust lifting off every
tussled stone and trodden stick. I am surrounded
by a wide spray-white weed, its name as withered
as this stuttered speech where spittle forms
on my lips and evaporates into salt-sick air.

Above, the tree-forked head of an unhuggable koala
observes a landslip of rainbow lorikeets flashing
between branches, and as suddenly returns to sleep.

I wonder if he dreams of Lassiter’s Reef, a strip of gold
as elusive as the fresh water hidden beneath our feet,
or whether he paints landscapes with a mind that sees
every heave and curve of hill as milk-filled breasts.

We move with a stiff wind that scrapes its pattern
about our rising scrambling shapes; scattered bones
re-articulate our dreadful descent. Testy trees
only traverse the up-up of return in mimicry
of a mouth-stitched competition for survival.

And we of the never-never waver as vertical leaves
catch the light and wince as each tense click follows
every earthbound twig: falling twigs, slow twigs,
bulbous nosed twigs, ghost bark, twig thin, walking,
matchstick; wicked twigs with witch eyes, taloned
twigs that suggest and stress in sign, bouquet twigs
caught in bridal time, twisted in hair, venomous as forked
tongues in twig beds, tenement twigs that snap their
windows shut as we pass, cathedral twigs with bower
bird arches, cloud twigs in space-nets, twig fingers
stretching towards the ringed fingers of fathers, silent
twigs who will never know who they are.

The tempest and taste and texture and quivering rustle and
mouth-puckering heckle and herald of Spring does not convince
this land to be anything but itself: stone faced charlatan carrying
chiding eyes of colonial child, bare-arsed rockface bruised and
battered as the pitless miner’s brow, cramped dry and bent double
as the inverted commas of farmer’s backs beside ghost partners
lost to unmarked drought graves in skull deserts, cradle rocked
with news and nuisance calls of cicadas that do not end, rocketed
fields of stone and islands that await the return of living things,
and ruthless shells of empty rustic homes filled with dust and
twigs from roadtrains of turquoise trees that have turned grey

And now this sky blue pool into which I fly as crystal
and calming and careful as an egret, though, I have long
since held that elongated shape, only a memory of sleek
and slim and swift, to be taken with me when I leave
this patchwork place to its hidden springs and spigots
and sprigs of subtle things that have no meaning in this air.