Walking Around at Night
The rising moon appears,
softly focused as a movie queen,
in a close frame
through the kitchen flyscreen.
I stroll outside and down the path,
leaving a radio;
the moon is buxom
behind the curtains of the willow.
It's soon an old fumy paraffin lamp
of a moon, lifted clear.
The hammer blows of barking,
a car clearing its chest, somewhere,
the slam of a tinny garage door
on concrete, and the voices
going inside that could be either
quarrelsome or boisterous.
In that dim-lit town, gable houses
wear a net veil
of leaf-shadow. The lawns, side-lit,
are wheatgrass, succulent and frail.
A parking lot is bare tonight
within its cold, immense
chain-wire. The shadows of some pebbles
loom like a chess defence.
A single tree on the Council lawn,
in 'subdued light', is still:
dressed up, a woman alone in the corridor
of a convention hotel;
a skinny tree, in knee-length fashion, and
leg-aligning, high-heel pose.
A little nervous and preening, tottery.
Another one of those.
Across the paddocks, backyards —
Above fences, the lounge room lights burn;
in the frosty night, thick like thistle fur,
a few porch lights are on.
I keep walking. A cow and the moon
(it's white as salt now), each a term
in some kind of sequence, I shoo
the cow, for a place to lie that's warm,
under a lichen-smoke and bird's egg sky.
Adrift on the rising night.
Going on, towards a razor-strop highway;
its streaks of light
are suddenly lifted away at the curve
and gone, each a stroke;
and the occasional heavy flat backwards
stropping, of a truck.
Waiting to cross (a short-cut back), I stand
in weeds. At every car,
they're strung with glutinous, distended drops.
The moon is bright as an old scar.
Well, 'Cumulus', Robert Gray's Collected Poems, is certainly a book and a half.
I've been through it twice, with a break of almost a year between first and second
reading, and now I am shelving it, but I couldn't say I've got on top of it. It's very
rich feeding, indeed. The star poems are for me for the nonce – 'In Departing Light'
and 'A Bowl of Pears' – (both from 'Afterimages' 2002) – but every time I turned a
page to focus on another poem (sometimes at random and out of sequence) I seemed
to be caught up in a whole new definition of starriness. Look, I liked damn near the
whole book (tiny bit tough on Thomas Hardy maybe on page 239??) The whole book
took my fancy. So which poem to pick?? I went for this one, because I have taken that
walk many times, many times, in many little towns, and this poem is the absolute
experience of that walk. As I was typing the poem up I was totally relishing the acute
play of the punctuation, and then I noticed the delicious rhymes!