Paradise Eclogue


Once I lay in the lassitude of summer,
rocking the sky’s slow boat
looking up the skirts of a sorority of poplars. The wind rose
and the grey leaves panicked
in a silver school and swam south,

But not far south, and the sky above
was a lapis scrim of unbroken
thought. Benazir Bhutto had died on the morning of that day,
all over the world, and I felt guilty
even being here. But there was the gentle sky

And it was going nowhere and blaming no-one fast – a vast intelligence
canvassing nothing special,
drawn taut and candid and empty
Over the whole carnal world. A charged void, the flip side of knowledge,

The other side of pleasure, and there could have been nothing wrong
in the world – nothing at all –
but then the wind stirred, and I fell
from the sky’s sly boat back into the hammock and remembered

All of them. But Paradise, in my experience,
is only herself for minutes at a time.
Outside of that, she’s the possum shitting in the ceiling above you;
she’s your man and his children from his first time round; she’s the house
and the copperhead under it,

And the mortgage over it, and she’s the parrots flaring
at dusk. Most of it is shit,
my doctor said to me once, a man whose love and medicine had failed
to save his wife, a man caring for three teenagers now.
Hating it and loving

Them. Most of love is shit. But this is the best
I will ever have been, I was thinking,
hanging there from the sky; and that second, I stopped being it
and start missing it, and the wind fell and rose again.
And later my son found me

And fell into the hammock with me,
the very cradle of his world.
I just want you, the boy said, as though I really were something.
I rocked with him a while,
and then we stepped down and walked back

Into the lengthening afternoon
of the rest of our days. And the morning after,
I woke and saw that the word had got out early and written itself all over
the place, especially in the east but also
on the leaves of the grasses, in colours

The holy spirit would have been proud of
back in the old days,
before she unstopped the world’s bottle and seeped
like some profound and original sin
well into next week.

from The Road South (River Road Press, 2008), Mark Tredinnick 2008, used by permission of the author and River Road Press

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