Type
Poetry
Category
Writing

Survey

It’s been too hot during the day to survey
the block – ornate language doesn’t do the trick,
it’s a physical, material, and pragmatic performance …
not ‘radical empiricism’, but an act of preservation.

The difference here; the difference elsewhere.
I work this over as I note the fast, hot winds
have brought down two great limbs from the eucalypt
by the tank, the green leaves already seared

and probably ‘dead before they hit the ground’.
The water trough I fill for kangaroos and other
wildlife in this desiccated habitat is almost
dry and what moisture remains informs a bloom

of algae. I clean and refill. Red ants bite my feet
and I carefully brush them away. A hawk
looks for a safe perch to settle for the night.
Each substance ‘inheres’, or is it ‘in which

they inhere’? as William James might attribute
to this wood from the fallen tree, questioning its quality
of ‘combustibility and fibrous structure’.
I – we – manage our days because of those

attributes, those qualities of burn. I survey
the block in the relative cool of evening
while there’s still enough light to make things out:
shape them individually and as an entirety,

into a whole that adds up, is as good as might be,
kept from larger harm, grouped in those days
James lectures us about, phenomena of climate
and gumption to resolve as much as possible.

I entrust to the relative cool of night.

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John Kinsella’s most recent books of poetry include Drowning in Wheat: Selected Poems (Picador, 2016) and Graphology 1995–2005 (Five Islands Press, 2016). He is a Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge University and Professor of Literature and Sustainability at Curtin University.

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