Paul Kane

Paul Kane has published five collections of poems, including A Slant of Light (Whitmore) and Work Life (Turtle Point), and is the author of Australian Poetry: Romanticism and Negativity (Cambridge). He serves as poetry editor of Antipodes, artistic director of the Mildura Writers Festival, and general editor of The Braziller Series of Australian Poets. He teaches as Vassar, and divides his time between New York and rural Victoria.

~Photograph by William Clift ~



The Fire Sermon

Here in the Drowned Lands
         the black dirt is the blackest
black I know—give it
            time and it’s oil, to blacken
                        earth, air and water with fire.

 In winter, without
           snow cover or a crop, winds
insinuate fine
            granules under windows
                        and doors. That’s our peck of dirt.

 Ironbark forests—
           a world away—are fire tough,
their carbon footprint
            black trunks, seared soil, and fresh green—
                        the Aboriginal park.

 Last year we fled floods,
           this year a grass fire near Clunes—
one wind shift away.
            The Fire Sermon gets into
                        your blood: the black days ahead. 

But let’s not leave it
            at that. Winter played possum,
then ambled off—now
            we’re marching towards spring—Daylight
                        Savings all the grace we need.


Worlds Apart

The bottom fell out
            and it was a long way down.
He surfaced once,
            saying he was back, but then
                        we lost him, and now he’s gone. 

You could say he killed
            himself with drinking, or drink
took him out at last,
            but his ex-wife’s suicide
                        was murder on him, poor man. 

Poor woman! And now,
            poor daughters to sift the ash.
I cannot shake it.
            Not a close friend, but friend still
                        in a world growing friendless.

The circle closes,
            tightening like a rope loop,
or, rather, it breaks
            open, with each loss gaping,
                        until it’s all detritus. 

That’s the view inside,
            but when I walk out midday,
nothing is natural
            because it’s all what it is,
                        soft air, clouds, wood thrush, the grass.  

I could describe it,
            but to what purpose?  We all
live in the same world,
            though world’s apart, and never
                        to meet—except life to life.