The steers have found their way
to the edge of the world,
a line of broken fences left behind.
More than a hundred of them,
blundering together in a dark flood
as they follow the creek
under the low road bridge
with the grey thunder rolling over,
bowed shoulder to shoulder,
like grown men heading home
after the game.
What calls them?
Is it the taste of salt in the air,
salt on their tongues,
between their teeth,
They cannot stop.
The vast boom and hush of the ocean
has drawn them down from the farm,
one-coloured, floodlit, electric
with its treeless fields
and concrete yards.
Deep down the steers know
this is not their element,
this is not where they belong
but still they wade into the surf
as one, into the blue meadow,
the dark line of the horizon,
to drink to swim to disappear.
I Went to Sleep
I went to sleep with my neighbour’s searchlight sweeping over my bed,
the sound of his gun killing things in quick succession,
killing things so that others could live
I reasoned and must have dreamt, only
half-waking to a sound like a child’s cry
in the gully below the house where the waves funnel
out of the blue-white crush, over the fallen rocks.
For a full moment I wanted it to be a child,
to run and find it waiting there,
something small enough to hold in my arms, to rescue, soothe,
knowing it was more likely the hawk’s mew
or the gurgling cry of a lamb sensing a shadow
carve the sky above the paddock,
looking for something to feed its young.
And so it goes I thought and did not move.
Heard again my neighbour’s gun further and further off
and round my house the stuttering sighing of the pines,
the hoo hush of it reaching me over and over long after the sight,
bright ocean smoothing itself down like a great silver bed
and when the call came again I held my breath,
the wind took it, and I slept.