You will be out of reach upon a wafer shelf of ice,
crabbing through dreams with bent knees, while
the ice snaps and smokes like a fragile simile.
But this has not happened yet. You sit with me, sketching
out your plans back in Queensland’s provincial steamy pubs,
where glass is a verb to cold-eyed drunks sour with beer,
and ice grants visions. Veiny addicts become supermen,
fracturing their way through emergency wards, throwing
chairs through the looking glass, following Alice into the frost.
You once told me of the hapless kid who kicked in the church glass door
for the collection money, so that the priest had to save him
with his vestments: forever thinking of stained glass as arterial red.
In a pub near the Brisbane River viscid and luminous at dusk’s edge
the water levels to a stretch of glass for the eight men who
slip their rowing boat through its cartesian warps.
We watch them lean back on the extraction, their arms
pendulum and piston, languid on the extensions, rapid
lunges, their reflection lagging out upon a sheer of glass.
I’ve seen you daydream through a store window at blue pup icebergs
and giant’s fists hunkering in the flat bays of a travel agent’s poster
as the Northern Lights flash green and turquoise above them.
But the auroras are spectral slivers and shards of a star’s breath
and too cold for me. The sea’s floating junk is a brittle wish
and all too chill. You will climb that mountain alone to the top.
The stars will be your cold witnesses, frigid and distant as
chipped nodules pressed into the galaxy’s sore. Always icy
though each one is hotter than the first blood ever spilled.
The stars are too far away to be reached with apologies,
so we can describe them how we wish. The plummy
metaphor of glass: paste costume jewellery slung over space.
Similes for ice. Under the empty gaze of the shivering stars and
the shadow of the last peak swollen thick at the base, you think
of only one thing when you step out on each bare shelf of ice.
Sometimes it is warm enough for the sheeted ice to melt,
for the crevasse to give up the bodies it has chinked away,
but in this late freeze you walk across your mirror.
The mountain offers you a frozen scattering of light
that was water, a refraction eating away at this last hard climb.
A slick of glass. You skitter on the bound glissading wave.
It has not happened yet. It may never happen. These auguries
soap and fumble from the metaphor. A cold vision captured:
you step out under the heedless stars, the future slippery as glass.
- 96: NO THEME IXSUBMIT NOW with M Gill and J Thayil 95: EARTHwith M Takolander 94: BAYTwith Z Hashem Beck 93: PEACHwith L Van, G Mouratidis, L Toong 92: NO THEME VIIIwith C Gaskin 91: MONSTERwith N Curnow 90: AFRO AUSTRALIANwith S Umar 89: DOMESTICwith N Harkin 88: TRANSQUEERwith S Barnes and Q Eades 87: DIFFICULTwith O Schwartz & H Isemonger 86: NO THEME VIIwith L Gorton 85: PHILIPPINESwith Mookie L and S Lua 84: SUBURBIAwith L Brown and N O'Reilly 83: MATHEMATICSwith F Hile 82: LANDwith J Stuart and J Gibian 81: NEW CARIBBEANwith V Lucien 80: NO THEME VIwith J Beveridge 57.1: EKPHRASTICwith C Atherton and P Hetherington 57: CONFESSIONwith K Glastonbury 56: EXPLODE with D Disney 55.1: DALIT / INDIGENOUSwith M Chakraborty and K MacCarter 55: FUTURE MACHINES with Bella Li 54: NO THEME V with F Wright and O Sakr 53.0: THE END with P Brown 52.0: TOIL with C Jenkins 51.1: UMAMI with L Davies and Lifted Brow 51.0: TRANSTASMAN with B Cassidy 50.0: NO THEME IV with J Tranter 49.1: A BRITISH / IRISH with M Hall and S Seita 49.0: OBSOLETE with T Ryan 48.1: CANADA with K MacCarter and S Rhodes 48.0: CONSTRAINT with C Wakeling 47.0: COLLABORATION with L Armand and H Lambert 46.1: MELBOURNE with M Farrell 46.0: NO THEME III with F Plunkett 45.0: SILENCE with J Owen 44.0: GONDWANALAND with D Motion 43.1: PUMPKIN with K MacCarter 43.0: MASQUE with A Vickery 42.0: NO THEME II with G Ryan 41.1: RATBAGGERY with D Hose 41.0: TRANSPACIFIC with J Rowe and M Nardone 40.1: INDONESIA with K MacCarter 40.0: INTERLOCUTOR with L Hart 39.1: GIBBERBIRD with S Gory 39.0: JACKPOT! with S Wagan Watson 38.0: SYDNEY with A Lorange 37.1: NEBRASKA with S Whalen 37.0: NO THEME! with A Wearne 36.0: ELECTRONICA with J Jones