poem | Margaret Bradstock

188 cover

spring 2007
ISBN 978-0-9775171-5-2
published 20 September 2007

Moons of Jupiter

The astronomers expected the first of Jupiter’s satellites to appear at about
a quarter of an hour after eight in the evening; but with all their activity they
could not get their instruments ready in due time; so that the opportunity was lost.

— Labillardière’s diary, d’Entrecasteaux expedition, 24 April 1792

How the forests rise up,
close in, like organ pipes,

no sound of an axe.

I’ve measured eucalypts
twenty-five feet in circumference,
white ships’ masts tapering skyward,

slept in their shelter

through nights of piercing cold.
On the skirt of the forest
a fence, strips of eucalypt bark

interwoven by natives,

routing the winds from the bay.

No sign of La Perouse,
wrecked somewhere between Botany Bay

and the Santa Cruz Islands.

We set up an observatory tent,
forges, repair yards, a village,

but miss the satellites,

Bonvouloir so disappointed
he weeps like a child.

Human voices,
Lyluequonny warriors
who watched us sleeping,
as a man who’s saved a life
takes up the burden.
They exchange kangarou skin cloaks

for pantaloons,

shell ornaments for neckcloths,
seven perch on the limb of a tree
like – dare I say it – blackbirds.
We gather at Little Lagoon Beach,
broiling species of sea-wrack,

roasting shellfish;

the painter, Piron,
coats himself with charcoal powder
black as a New-Hollander,
the attrition of skin.

Two of them singing the same tune

at once, but always

one a third above the other,
forming a concord,
they celebrate our transit.

© Margaret Bradstock
Overland 188-spring 2007, p. 59

Like this poem? Subscribe!