The Most Invisible Layer Canto

Where curtains hang in doorways
and clients’ paintings cover walls,
where wiring is dodgy and light-bulbs

are enemies of darkened corners,
the leader-in-his-field peers at families
and writes up scientific reports.

In a street of light industry and brothels,
Scandinavian car in a shady driveway,
his sadness for sad families accumulates

like cat hairs or books stacked on floorboards.
Unpicking gates of learning, he watches
the teenager work through puzzles,

city noises, city fumes, caught at the base
of hills. A week earlier, the teenager
explored a gravel pit on the edge

of the wheatbelt, bemused by a clearing
within surrounding bush:
holes and upturned flowerpots at regular

intervals: where there’s bush
on government land, the “smokers” come
and plant their mull crops:

introducing weeds, brutally emptying space.
She doesn’t know what’s going on,
but knows wrong through damage done.

She learns the names of rare plants
holding out against clearers, planters,
as a way of resistance, as walking

saltwastes of Yenyenning Lakes
she took records for a school project
of hectare on hectare of dead trees,

and small-scale efforts to heal the wounds.
Later, where curtains hang in doorways
and clients’ paintings cover walls,

she guesses puzzles she’ll be offered,
and knows answers before they’ve begun:
“Your memory is as good as mine”…

my memory is as good as his,
and he doesn’t know what I recall.

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).