Ante Canto 4

Distantly I saw two birds tearing
at the carcass of a snake: up close,
a cuckoo-shrike fought a magpie

over the corpse of a dugite.
Neither bird hesitated as I approached.
In the blur of their savagery,

I saw two angels without hunger,
intent on trouncing each other.
I called out, and asked them both

their stories. They hesitated,
then, without opening their beaks,
ventriloquised, a jam tree speaking

and then a boulder of granite,
I couldn’t separate the voices:
“I ran for town council and proposed

an abattoir, a lease of life for the shire,
I am a visionary…opposed on the basis
that there’s more to life than balance sheets…

that it would downgrade the district…
I farmed out where the creeks begin
and resisted the soil going saline…

I employed my children and their children
as well… I count orchids and divert ploughs…
I am innovative and forward-looking…

the snake would be better off with me,
the snake would be better off with me…”
and so I left them, smuggling

what made the dugite a dugite
out inside me, away from its torn
and degraded body.

About John Kinsella:
John Kinsella’s most recent volumes of poetry are Peripheral Light: Selected and New Poems (W. W. Norton, 2003), Doppler Effect: Collected Experimental Poems (Salt, 2004), and The New Arcadia (W. W. Norton, 2005).