Invitation to Jagun
for Alice Oswald
Last week in the British Library I asked you to Australia,
you submitted fear of flying but it would make a change
from lying at gravity’s suggestion on cool Dartmoor earth.
You could walk out of our house straight into Jagun
spread a dizzy balance on our old impoverished soils
under towering Bloodwoods, Blackbutts and Turpentines.
Expect some discomfort from marauding ants, leeches
and ticks, hungry and chewing at all angles, perhaps head
for the roar of the Pacific washing up on Letterbox Beach,
relax on the hind dunes among the crab holes below Coastal Banksias
and become intimate with the Black Cockatoos, noisy eaters
shredding breakfast, burying you in sage-green flower spikes.
Our art collection hangs Hyacinth Orchids, flashy Painted
Jezebels, the golden Regent Bowerbird and volatile Scarlet Honeyeater,
but it is the haptic and aural that interest you – a White-throated
Treecreeper tapping lightly, the mercurial scatter of skinks, slewed
rustle of a python, crisp scrunch of a goanna taking off up a tree –
and the music of avian choirs of fantail, thornbill, whistler and wren.
Stay under night’s roof, watch the Southern Cross abseil
through the open architecture of the forest and sense
the silent manoeuvres of Frogmouths, Boobooks and Gliders.
Thoreau was content with a flute, Homer and home-made cakes,
but stay much longer and your language will become dishevelled,
syntax will slough, verbs bounce and rusted nouns splutter.
If you sleep a deep sleep deft Wombat Berry, Arrow-head Vines,
insistent sharp-thorned Sarsaparilla and with a bit of luck
the threatened Cryptic Forest Twiner will parcel you tightly.
Gumbaynggirr time flies by the self-presence of Romantic poets,
your skin will grow afresh, your cheeks will welcome the primary
colonisers, smooth Blackwattle lichens that come in a choice
of green or ivory, foliose lichens will root Cats Eyes to the tips
of your fingers and toes and feathery grey fruticose species
will bodice your torso, all symptoms of a healthy world.
By now Jagun will be a new wood, its stumps and history mulch,
its ground a palimpsest of psalms, a browse of leaf and stem
its scripture, and our star sinking behind Nunguu Mirral its benediction.
An old mystery, the Green Man may trace a songline from the Dart
to Oyster Creek (I’ve just felt a wallaby running off thumping the bank).
You showed I must touch more if this place is to become a coming home.
Note: Jagun Nature Reserve is named after the Gumbaynggirr word for home/dwelling.
To hear Alice Oswald & Robin Robertson reading at THE T.S. ELIOT MEMORIAL MEETING – March 2013