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.