Twelfth Canto of the Invisible Layers: post-smoke (or Canto 16 in realtime)

Deserted by virtues, the planet,
as you indicate, is weighed down
and covered with iniquity.

Late-autumn blue skies
obfuscated by pathological
burning off: black inventories

of windrows, heaven caught up
as much as earth. The eagle soaring
high on distressed thermals

is blind to mice and rabbits
running counter clockwise,
unsure of the routes

back to burrows. Farmers
edge slowly along—their firetrucks
misfiring, water sloshing

in fibreglass tanks, pumps low-revving—
and watch firebreaks fill with “vermin”.
A slight breeze causes a slight rush

of hearts, fanning flames.
That was yesterday, and the day before,
and like it for two weeks further back.

Today, there are only wisps
distantly, out back of Wongborel,
small-holdings, burning.

The local election of the weekend
has yielded results. The abattoir man
is president of Council.

He is farmer, businessman.
The town has exercised its single-celled
free-will. The majority has chosen.

It will satiate, initially.
The tyre guy tells Mum, as he fits
a new set of radials to her Commodore,

that he has a photo, taken locally,
of a python wrapped around the head
and neck of the fox that hunted it down.

Stone dead, he said…of the fox.
What kind of python…?
A diamond python? A carpet snake?

Twin suns bonded together.
Harsh smoke welding eyes shut.
The town’s wheat silo is being emptied:

trucked to the port, semi-trailer load
by semi-trailer load, train wagon load
by train wagon load, despite

uncertainty about markets. Scandal.
The spreading word. And over the river
Auntie Lorraine heard a chopper

in the early hours of the morning,
and she woke Uncle Gerry and said:
“that can’t be good…it’s never

a good sign,” and then heard
the following morning that a neighbour’s
leg had been torn off by a machine

in his hay shed. Medivac’d
out, he traced the river’s
dusty hallucinatory flow to the city.

It’s a ray-filled day here, here
below Walwalinj: brighter lights of planes
high overhead deflect residues of smoke
we can barely see, as if they’d never risen.

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).