Mark Tredinnick is a poet, essayist and writing teacher; he lives in Burradoo, in the highlands southwest of Sydney in Australia’s southeast. His books include The Little Red Writing Book (published in the United States and the United Kingdom in 2008 as The Cambridge Essential Writing Guide), The Land’s Wild Music and A Place on Earth. His landscape memoir, The Blue Plateau, and The Little Green Grammar Book will appear in 2008. Mark is also at work on a volume of poems and a book about the consolations of literature in a frantic age. Mark’s prizes include The Newcastle Poetry Prize, The Gwen Harwood Poetry Prize, The Calibre Essay Prize, The Wildcare Nature Writing Prize and shortlistings in major awards, including The ABR and Broadway Prizes. His writing (poems, essays and criticism) has appeared in many books and anthologies, in Best Australian Essays, and in Australian and overseas journals and newspapers including Island, isotope, Orion, Manoa, PAN, Southerly The Sydney Morning Herald. He has written regularly for The Bulletin.
In recent years, Mark has edited a number of collections of Australian writing, each published as a special issue of a literary journal: Where Waters Meet (Manoa18:2, with Larissa Behrendt and Barry Lopez), Watermarks (Southerly 64:2, with Nicolette Stasko), and Being True to the Earth (PAN 4, with Kate Rigby). He has taught landscape writing, creative non-fiction and poetry at centres in the USA and at The University of Sydney.
Photographer :Tony Sernack
Adrift in the middle of my years, I sit in a corner and drink. I eavesdrop
a tableful of girls romancing their cell phones, workshopping
love’s abstract particulars.
Football plays on the big screen;
I listen like a thief in case the women know the score.
But I never could tell. At fulltime I walk home like a motherless child.
Witness is a solitary game. There isn’t a thing I have left to say
but back in my room I ring like a singing bowl,
empty and unable to stop.
You’re in nine kinds of pain, my friend; you know
the twenty-seven strains of despair. And your lovely hair has fallen.
The moon at my window is a rusted shot, caught in its corrupt trajectory down.
The world was always someone else’s oyster, a metaphor
I never could prise open.
All I’m good for tonight
is to let the night pass,
while beyond me the world peters and my friend fights beautifully
like a trout on God’s line. The usual idiots are still in power. But they’ll keep.
Make prayer at the concrete trough
beneath the dripping tap. Flush now with summer
the water poplars graze a slow benediction
over the birds, and a miser’s rain falls through the
From my desk I look out on this
epitome of good fortune and pray for more
rain. The weather has turned. It will do that
if you wait. The wind is in the south
and the leaves of the poplars shiver silver
as though something that was wounded is now healed.
These past days have tried and found me
wanting, and I have almost failed, but here
I am, still who I always was,
only more so. The days you love are not
the days that prove you. Winter is my weather;
I grow by waiting. And there is no end
of the dying one did not know
one had yet to do to one’s self.
But you’ve had days like these. I envy
the hens the steady circle of their days,
but this is not how mine go; I am strung from stars
that once were gods and can’t seem to forget.
Dandelions break out like lies in the grass. There’s an election
in the wind and promises on the table beneath the poplars and even the weeds
look good in the spring. But not far west
crops fail in their red fields
and rivers wither into memory. The future fails and the economy blooms
its profuse abstractions. What will the children eat when the wheat no longer rises?
One child learned to walk
the day another learned to drive
and in between sixteen years ran before they could crawl
me any closer to who I’m meant to be
by now. November’s fallen back into winter. All day long on the roof
the rain writes the only script there’ll ever be for any of this.
God delivers when you stop
praying. The music starts when you stop
playing so hard and listen.
Some good came along today when I was busy hoping
for nothing, sweeping the cowshed instead and putting things off.
Want only the rain to fall and your children to find out for themselves.
Oh, it’s way too late now
to hope to say anything new.
All the music and all the meaning there ever were
have been here all along, and you may catch some –
but you mustn’t try too hard – between your child’s first steps, between
downpours, between the sweeping judgments of the broom.
The way Nan walks the lane
morning and evening behind her dog,
each step sounding one year of the ninety
she has seen; the way the black ducks land like tardy extras
on the rainy grass at dusk – enactments that say something I’d like my life
to say. Something the weather says, my children say, and you.