Our country is starred with citadels,
rung with helms of mountain-fist and mountain-neck.
Deep, cavernous, flushed in a hundred greens,
processional throat, shock of indigo and white.
There is a centreland of steeple stars:
flowers on reed-struck huts,
candlenut towers clouding out the apple-sun,
the sun that is a red sandpaper fig.
The terrace-keep, the transept of bright canopy,
is willed awake in the height of morning,
unbinding flares on arrowhead signs,
jungle ferns in wide open baths,
villages of teal, garnet, gulfs rasping in their weeds.
The continent is now heaped with sentries,
a vast crownwork of huddled gods:
pepperbush arms, olive wattle,
the reluctant nightshade, the blue cedar,
tulip brooms, tuckeroo and gum.
Many Apollos are resolute and clipped,
bearing shoulders tense with wine,
stripped with vivid blues.
They are big baskets
and paper diamonds made by
the common wanderer, the sickly child,
the blind widow and many forgotten people.
Whole civilizations rise and fall around the breadfruit here.
The seasons quarry, drop themselves in neutralness.
Eleven redwoods have conquered the grove,
sheltering women, gardens, cassowary eggs
as pearl divers and pig hunters mourn in the grass.
One old man knows this place is a lonely midquel,
a Dark Age outpost, a temple and storehouse for the world.
He remembers tundra full of jade, the Triune name of God,
the baptism of far away islanders,
the undertow of violence in the wind.
Old sloughs of peat and moss,
dry lips of persimmon-rot all brew in lit-up corners,
the daylight streamering from the Upland,
from where the canopy has not
swallowed up the banners of the sky.
Gentle sadness is there in all the soils,
perched on every invocation,
slipping off the echo-tip of birch bark,
off of lean-tos, tents and holes.
Gorongosa is the old name for it, for us,
for a tract of Mozambique or Bolivia.
No one is sure now which.
The redwood now is stately but brittle
like the breastbone of a pope.
Cupping many hearths with bony fingers,
their roots shiver, shiver more than
the ochre-caked legs of girls
shut away in hollowed out trunks of trees.
Their children have no memory
of our incompleteness, and happily explore
the distant tableland where yams and coffee grow,
where gulches froth with mango globes,
nameless fruits with the shape of jugs,
dark and full as sunken gems.
Mottling of potentials? Tragedies?
Verdant no wheres are everywhere,
drooping out behind the ruts.
The old sciences and new fears
are blurring with the desert sciences
that no one keeps.
The fireside philosophy, the folklore
and glass pictures, composed in blue finches,
in temple-caves, cannot explain
their construction, let alone their purpose.
The riddles, the Troys and triangles and orders,
are weeping for themselves,
dragging and lilting between the foreverness
of the trees and the trees.
But still the flags will go up and out,
over huts where daughters live
with names like Jericho and Ur,
and blush in changing tempos,
and elect reeves and swing the scythe,
and couple dialects with religions,
paint seawalls in the night
and name every capillary of the air,
every chip of oysterwood and fern,
catalogue their families in star charts,
in matrilineal songs in rounds.
And even after that there will
be stone tables that their grandchildren
will learn from, stories of flower rods
and King Hezekiah and the copper
snake that Moses had made.
And even then the oracles would
go out and refuse to bow down,
and enumerate the animals like many before them,
and see an angel in the furnace,
and even go out and forge again
the copper serpent, and read
from arrowheads found buried in the hills.