As broad and flat and worn
as the palm of God’s hand,
criss-crossed with lines of life and death
that those who know the palmist’s art
can read and can, perhaps, survive.
Sheep move, licelike, through the follicles
but nothing else, until God sighs
and half an inch of topsoil
By Joe Massingham, Entry # 12
On Bullock Mountain
Sapling sentinels stare silently out over endless plains.
Sparse grass huddles coldly on the ground.
A furtive wind half sighs, half growls with fear,
as it skulks in the trees behind me.
An old grey roo leaps once, twice
and into the cavernous grey-green.
The mountain draws the darkening shawl
of night around its shoulders.
I turn and walk down.
A hiss of relief escapes from
the gums as I depart.
At the foot of the track I look out
over a sullen frost burnt field
that waits, resentfully, for the time
when my kind go and it can tear down
the fences and be free.
By Joe Massingham, Entry # 13
The peasant sky pauses
In its journeys over oceans,
to carry on its shoulders
whilst it travels overland
until it stumbles and
pours the lot
on the naked earth
stretched out sunbathing,
causing the hair on her skin
to stand up straight
quite suddenly, before
she seeks such shelter
as she can, whilst
waiting for the leering sun
to stare down at her again.
By Joe Massingham, Entry # 14
Wind whispers sweet nothings to adolescent wheat,
suggesting they go off together to the city.
She giggles, tosses her hair, hunches her shoulders,
turns her delicately tanned face to the sun.
Rebuffed, wind moves on, but the lure
of bright lights lingers with wheat.
Autumn comes and full-grown wheat goes,
but to the silo, not the city. Wind,
furious at finding her gone,
vandalises the fragile stubble,
scoops up top soil and carries it off,
dumping it on a distant shoreline
when his attention is attracted by
flirtatious, blonde-haired waves.
By Joe Massingham, Entry # 15
In kitchens on the properties
stand pine or eucalypt, sturdy and square,
scrubbed daily to a soft silk surface.
In grander dining rooms, here and there,
red cedar stands, carved after Sheraton
or Adam, polished as red
as Empire once was on the maps.
And after dinner gentlemen converse
whilst they help themselves
from sparkling glass and polished box
set out on side tables made from claret ash.
In the towns the merchants
have desks of silky oak
at which they make their modest fortunes.
At weekends their families forgather
round the drop-leaf elm
to take part in that most old English of rituals,
roast meat, and two veg, followed by
a custard covered pudding,
even on the hottest day.
In the city we buy our heritage,
paying usurious prices to a dealer
for a walnut, oak or other imported bargain,
or make do with oregon and veneer,
a skin put on to make things look respectable,
much as we put on our manners when we come to table.
By Joe Massingham, Entry # 16
By Joe Massingham, Entry # 16
Author’s note: ‘The Tablelands’ (properly the New England Tablelands) are in the north
of New South Wales, Australia)