ELEGY FOR JOHN FORBES
Not that you envied them, John,
but that they never envied you.
Now a single life
once lost can prove that we
had wished it otherwise.
You were neither blithe simplicity, nor disrepair –
far from it,
more like an old typewriter that still worked
with a kind of emigrant charm
while most had headed for a faster ship.
Having never left the beach, upturned boats
make luminous, burning things –
and the air after you’ve gone
is filled with smoke
like a Tom Roberts sketch of the Casbah, not quite
thick enough for incense, not quite
Cronulla, except the same searing light
the longer you stare
the closer you get
to that blue sandbar
your poems make of clarity –
the summer light, the abundant ruin
and no one can tell
which came first.