in your pocket

in your pocket

your words always
few and well-used
something deep in
your pocket
you took out
and showed us
putting them back
again in a closed hand
down again into that
darkness wearing
thin the coming
light that one
afternoon
smashed in
your eyes

just when
you have a
measure of what
you’re up against
have learnt to hold
the axe and not
fear it
you find
the one who showed
you how to lift it
weigh the heft
just under the head
before the swing
jerk it from
the grip of wood
sunk into
is gone like
dust down
a summer road
no drinking
with him
no last word
to open your eyes
to all the distances
of mountain and sea
he’s left in a flurry
of sail out there

being with the
afternoon the cumulus
stalled above
the mountains
coming over
that horizon
deepening in the shadowed light
of a late sun

he’s off on horseback
round a head with
a shore breaking in white
sheep come
down to the
salt spray

you dreamed yourself
once back in those
mountains where
you panned and sluiced
for gold the paths
the mountains were
all gone to hell
no sense in any of
what your saw
no deer stepping
out against the
breadth of snow peaks
you lowering your
gun in silence
unable to kill
that moment
that pride
of living before
you

what man you were
i had to understand
as a child busy
with his own games
trying to keep up
with his own imagination
was hard enough
let alone match your
stories to echoes
of what i now might
say i’ve known
have felt

you’re off in the
quiet edge of the
bush out there
with rifle leather bag
and knife admiring
more than taking

no beer at a wooden table
with you under the heavy
umbrella we had for years
no sitting in a canvas
chair beside you a few
words more than enough then
looking up at the clear
dell of the stars
looking for remembered shapes
signs in their tingling breath of
light dangled silver

i know the tenth of
what your hand did
my eye caught something
of what your eye rode
through in a morning
of mornings the spectre of
the brocken across that
valley you and your
horse’s shadow up against
a mist with a rainbow
crown i’ve felt a
glance of the animals
you knew through
summers and dying winters

i know only i came
from some direction
you lived in as well
my own heart
drifting off
the moorings
out there
volcanic heads
fossil stones in the stream
of an island we’re
bound for

finding an evening
to anchor in the bay
cupped out of the wind
by terraced hills

stars on the water
you sleep upon

there would be
much i could say
to you over
beer and tears
still a tenth only
of what your
hand knew

a hand
to splice
the day

beijing
december 2008

becalmed in memory
of our father born
over 100 years ago

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5 thoughts on “in your pocket”

  1. Many thanks, Marco. My dad was a connoisseur of those ‘open spaces’ of bush, paddock, mountain and ocean. I’m glad it rung a bell with you. Have been reorienting myself in a new life so am somewhat out of touch with everyone of late. Seems you sent me an email sometime ago asking how I was, which I never answered. Mi dispiace, amico!

  2. you own those wide spaces, Peter – all that sky etc. It’s like you need to be out in it to appreciate or understand what you feel – to give yourself that space. I love this poem. Especially moving is the bit in italics, for me; but that is not to detract from the rest. Magnificent.

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