for John & Caroline Laws
||Clouds like crumpled handkerchiefs
Expand, retract, and then again expand
within a crowded sky.
Trees are younger here, roads longer.
Even telephone lines seem more finely tuned.
Their hum is not unlike
bellbirds at the downfield gate.
The deer run free.
They trot in herds,
all shapes and sizes
lingering and malingering
at the edge of rain forests,
where Spanish moss rides up
the tree trunks
and leaps from limb to limb.
At night and every morning
there are rainbows
that erase themselves
even as I run to fetch a camera.
Birds of every colour
hang in the air at breakfast feeders,
later slipping through the trees
to fill their feathered bellies
with a dozen unsuspecting dessert bugs.
I sleep well here
and Gabriel has come down
for the weekend.
Caroline and John seem happy -
she of the slow melodious voice
and languid afternoon naps,
he astride his tractor turning earth,
fixing fences with the aid of Link
or feeding endless sugar cubes to Casanova.
We meet at mealtime
to laugh at nothing
or offer never-ending toasts
to one another
with South Australian wine.
This turquoise world
feels more like South America
than New South Wales.
It is altogether too civilized
to be civilized.
Gabriel is always smiling
a sly half-European smile.
I think she longs to go back home
and some only hinted at
tanned and sleek Italian lover.
I long for her to stay.
Link, Cloud Valleys clever clown,
addresses all his jokes to her.
This is like some idyll, being idle,
trying hard to pressure John
to do more writing,
Utopia crumbles at the edges
whenever I forget to remember
At night, we all play Willie Nelson records,
and make the overseas operators crazy
trying to track down Roger Miller.
( When all of us are famous
wholl be left to clap ? )
Last night and far into the morning
I played for them
the newest version of Black Eagle,
filling in the story between the tracks.
All day today,
with Casanova neighing
softing in the pasture,
John whistled Flying Free.
I have never felt more bound,
not by circumstance
but by another summer coming in;
I will not let it carbon one just past.
If time were not a trumpet
always sounding out assembly
I would let the work go whistling
and send out obligations with the garbage,
then sink down into pillows
and find that dozen years of sleep
Ive somehow lost,
or go to work for John,
building, tearing down,
then putting fences up again -
marooned in sweet monotony
of motion physical without emotion.
I am marking time or wasting time
or trapped by time or something.
Just now, the only sound I hear
is the pealing of Australian bellbirds.
Someones at the downfield gate.
- from "The Sound of Solitude", 1983