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Rock Carvings, Sydney
Some days I pass the handiwork of tribes, that tribe that’s gone,
Why make their loss
speak for us or me, the nation’s patchwork

Why make of their defeat
the lyric lie you call preamble

which says we mean to keep it:
conception’s rock, whale and one stone calf,
two intersected outlines,
just-born palimpsest lucid as newborn skin,
large enough for two to lie inside?

They answer no one back
in that text they had to read
of sky, beach, cliff, and ledge,
land’s fractured page, countersigned as real-estate.
No man owns it say the men who do.

So each sunny day’s pay back time
when I pass their way. I thought
I’d leave brief signature, break
the surface of their mineral breath,

and make it gift or recompense –
my strange error, that code
of vast polluted clouds that murmur
‘History is all before, and all before
was this: a scrolling law
of rescored lines, gillflap, flipper, whale’s eye,
the Empire coin re-scores.
The first book went soft in water
now it’s hard as glass,
final contract when the love is gone
and hardly touches you.’