Poetry For Pakistan.
Readings of New Lyrics by Paul Healy
Hobart. November 6 and 7. 2010
More than 20 million people in Pakistan and Bangladesh have been displaced or severely affected by the recent disastrous floods which have destroyed homes, farms, fencing, crops, stock, roads, bridges and local infrastructure across the countryside.
In many areas, people who have lost all that they owned now face the heart breaking erosion of their topsoil: the very stuff on which rural communities depend, for their future survival.
This is an ecological disaster whose ongoing effects will be felt for years to come.
They need our continuing help.
The coming weekend of readings across Hobart for Pakistan will be just the first of an ongoing series where poets and writers across Australia will be asked to give their time and their voice as the beauty and the power of the spoken word is used to remind us of the universal language of the human spirit: of the common bonds of feeling shared between all people.
Please inform family, friends and workmates, and bring a group with you to enjoy an afternoon or evening of poetry and solidarity where Paul Healy will be introducing lyrics from three different collections of his poetry: a lifetime’s work.
He has promised a weekend of readings which will not be forgotten.
Volunteers from Caritas will be present at all venues to accept your donations, and all monies raised will go directly to their Pakistan Flood Appeal.
Saturday. November 6. 2.30 pm
St Johns Church. Richmond. “A God Who Smiles: Lyrics of the Spirit and the Soul.”
Saturday. November 6. 6.30 pm.
Drifters Café, Salamanca Place. Hobart. “Ghosts of Galapagos: The Poetry of Flight”
Sunday. November 7. 2.00 pm
Fullers Café. Collins Street, Hobart. “Carbon Futures: Environmental Lyrics and The Poetry of Climate Change”
The Waters: Rising.
The salt comes creeping underneath
Before the waves will flood the field to
Swamp those houses at the beach: rising
Saline eats your concrete - bye bye footings
As the walls first crack, and then collapse, and
Insurance companies will not pay: not if the sea
Comes seeping slowly through the ground. Soon
They will not cover any waterfront building
So when your new home by the bay, uplifts
Then starts to float away, or sinks in the mud
And sags: have a boyhood dreamboat standing by
On what’s dry land, now: but ensure the paynter’s tied.
South Cape. (That Cooler Muse)
Sunlipped stones that bake the stillness
Bask inside cicada’s song: it’s the sound
Of heat, of the air sucked dry, of the gum
Leaves limp with midday’s thought that
The worst of this is yet to come. This
Prophet from the desert suffers sunstroke:
Has fled as far southward as the shadows
Furl. After this: a cooler muse in Antarctica
Cliffcoast castles - lately built - endangered
By the ocean’s creep. As edges fret, cry “foul”
And then demand this problem must be fixed:
As if piling stone might somehow stop
The waves from rising on the surge breaking
Over beach and seawall, dock and pier with
Tidal inlet, pool and frailer sandbank swept to
Oblivion, by the storm. This: is: climate change.
“It won’t come here” the drunkard smiled: “The
Salt wont surge upstream this far: we’re safe”
He declared, than saw that I thought him smug:
“Oh fuck it! What does it matter! We’ve all got boats”
“The tide may not yet inundate your town” I said
“But your block is low: the septic outfall shall not drain
And all your shit will come floating back into the bowl
While on a full spring surge, the toilet will flood the house!”
“Oh fuck that too” he said, with a snarl: “I’m a
Single bloke and I’ll dig a hole, or piss with the wind
Who gives a dam, anyhow. Everything’s buggered
Anyway - we can all go down the plug hole - together”
At which he saw I was about to say that bathwater
Would not drain away, either, and laughed, and opened
Another bottle. “Might as well drink the rest”: he smiled
“We’re going to need all of the empties we can put by”
“Where might we buy a block?” they asked
“And where should we build a solar house?”
“Up on a hill, with soil, and a spring, and with
Room outback for a boatshed” I replied. “But on a
Site which can fit ten homes, and which can be
Walled, and defended. And you’d better learn to shoot.”
Each potoroo I see, I study, with every quoll, and every
Bandicoot. “Look well. Enjoy. Remember” I tell myself
Each day that I note one, on the farm, or see where they’ve
Been digging. “Remember well, the way that they scratch
The way that they move, the way that they look: their colour
Their markings, their habits, their burrows, their droppings and
Their food: remember it all, for soon, there will be no more - and
You shall speak of what is gone - must describe them to grandchildren.
A Lachlan Carol. (This Better Steel)
The hills at Lachlan trap the cold, and the frosted valley stays
So still - slopes mantled with a morning mist - that the fields are frozen
Twist tine deep, with soil like stone: it’s our vision of the permafrost, but
The tools they had - those Sydney toys - just bounced like buckled plastic knives.
When summer comes the hills are dry, and in the drought, the earth
Cements - ground glancing with the force of flint. At Christmas time we
Dared to dig, and broke the handle of the spade, and tried their bar, with blunted
Tip, and bent it square, and then we left: disgusted with the means supplied.
Now Santa carts his farmers kit, but always travels with his son - for the
Season is a family time, and joy is shared; when toil is tired he likes to sit
Back on his pride, to gauge the strength inside that frame, and feel the tremor
Of the blow: just loving how that boy can work, delighted by this better steel.
Salt Pans (Albany Highway, WA)
Dust and scrub and cockatoos, with posted crows at every mile of sand
And sheep and rutted tracks, and ruined gums, in piles of smoking autumn
Pyres that creep across the warping fields. The skyline, bleak - the rim bent
Down - each river is a muddy wash, while heaps of stone are bravely named as
Mountains wronged, with signposts pointing to the squat of picnic tables, waiting
For the passing trade in highway parks like shanty towns - abandoned to the past.
Two hundred miles between each stop in a land of dregs and failing crops
With tattered ribbons of the bush now begging by a roadside fringe, and
All that country too soon cleared, scraped into their broken heaps, and burnt.
One hundred years of hope, and greed, and now the frailer soil has blown. The
Waters, ebbing back through burning earth, have leached the salts of seasons lost,
The last few rags of trees are gaunt; the cratered pans are scabbed with death.
A compost garden out of rhyme with urban dreaming overgrown
By weeds and shade and broken toys lost within the elderberry sprawled
Between the chook shed, and the pool: became a duck pond in organic times
When geese and goats and random fruit trees crowded out that urban farm
Of meals home grown, their fruit preserved, and wine: they planned so much
But now the beds are given up to nightshift and Italian class, with summer
Evenings filched between school committees, book group, children dropped
At ballet, and the sporting field - with half the team invited home, then fed.
She does the best she can, each week, with two pet hens that hide their eggs in
Woody herbs that crowd the door, crept in under plans to shape a potager
Designed the year her “Shay” was born: the year his father lied, again, then fled.
The apple trees are mossed, but still bear fruit: the nectarine and peach all died
And I could not take her money - I would not pull it down, but said:
“The ground is good, will feed your dream, as all those weeds will build
The soil and keep it sweet, for later days, when years are meant to grow
Again. Leave it now: it’s fine. Enjoy the children, while they’re young.”
Her Mother’s Rose
That cutting from her mother’s rose had grown, and died, but then renewed - was lost
And left, and still lives on - is in its third declension now, spiraled inside a broken tub.
So cribbed, and bent - as if her rib remained so gaunt yet curled where courage would
Not wilt, still rising out of ache to bloom - and is not nourished, out of spring, but
Clings to moments that remain remembered in the knots of clay: stayed waiting in a
Garden, left, for time to peel away again, and heel that promise in the earth where love is
Traced, and hope unfurls, as life is threading through the shade to push all sighs into
The fold and feed so deep inside the soul: may watch the daughter’s dreaming, flower.
They cannot curb her bush cucurbits, no matter what the years have paled, or pulled,
No matter how the seasons turn, or foolish thought might spoil the ground with lazy ways
That spend the seed till April frosts with death; too soon. First planted on a compost
Heap, they sucked their moisture from the dew then tapped into a bank of silt, feeding on
The unseen flood with leaves spread out like lily pads that floated on a creek subsumed
Where blade and chain removed the gums, back filled, and crop and storm leached down
Till time would tend her granddad’s pumpkins planted where the chooks were filched, the
Flock all taken by the fox - but cowdung filled the empty yard, the pats were piled, and in
Between the tin and wire - the flame of pepo blooms began, so swiftly fanned to spread
Across the trough and tap and leaning shed, then tumble down, beyond the walls, to spill
Upon the Fords and ploughs and tractor parts that spiraled beneath the pepper tree. I saw
Those plants so quickly sprawl across the flat, to fill that swale like vines of fire
Where burning orbs were turned to track the summer god across the sky, and
Join - it seemed - in stars’ array, like whorls of solar florets clasped, their flowing lines
Of blooms infurled to form a flower of one bright day - a shining morning of the past
That flares where forty winters fall, and time has turned, and trial has tired where
Frailer dreams of faith - might fail - but pumpkins stretch across the field to overgrow
The empty hours of aching, worn out shade. They save her light. It shines, each year.
A Time of Eden
“We’re up in the hills” my neighbour said:
“We’ll be okay - though I feel sorry for those
Poor silly bastards down by the sea - I can’t believe
That they are still building houses at the coast. “
“What will you do when you or your son wants supplies?”
I asked “Thirty years from now?” “What do you mean?” he queried.
“The Glen Huon Road will be well under water by then” I told him
“Submerged each tide, impassable, and they will have tolled the north bank”.
“Toll?” he asked “What do you mean: the council?”
“No, not the council” I said “Such things will be long gone.
You do not understand. As the waters rise it will all break down so
Swiftly as councils, regions, nations crumble: it will all go back to
Local tribe so soon: to the rule of the strong, the smart, and those that
Hold the last good fields, fords, protected valleys, and the passing places.
You need to read John Wyndham’s “The Kraken Wakes”: he had
Different reasons for the climate shift, but saw what would happen
When the oceans rise, the cities go under, the fertile lowlands are lost
And then starving packs and mobs of the homeless begin to rove
Across the countryside: being channeled into island lines between the
Flooded farms and marshlands in a time when a man with a boat must also
Have a gun. There will be no rule, no laws, no council or police, though an
Army squad may take control of some territory kept by martial force: you
Will be lucky if it is your hill and farm that the soldiers fortify, and, as a serf, you
Get to keep your family alive, and your granddaughters protected: as comfort women.”
“And what about you then?” He asked “Where will you be?” “If I survive that long”
I said “I will be too old to fight to try to protect the ones I love, but will die trying.
You and I shall be the lucky ones: not left to mourn a lost world, and the land that was:
A time when we shared this earth with other creatures, and the forests: a time of Eden”