At twelve, I wanted to be a paleontologist
digging up bones in the paddocks round here,
easing a scythe of jaw from the creek bank –
not Diprotodon, but horse. Still,
I remember the thrill carrying it home
through that raw suburb, layered now in my mind.
Those strange creatures that evolved there:
Mr F. tuning his finicky engines,
Mrs H. axing the heads off chooks
their beaks still gaping on the bloody stump,
Mr B., a grey floppy hat among bean rows,
Mrs P. parading in her negligee
and beating her son with a hose.
In bed at night I pegged ancient shallow seas,
looking for life stamped in stone,
the dream coins of fossil joy.
And now there’s not enough time,
I want another go –
Digging under this new estate,
a chaconne of grey mortgages,
I would excavate the swamp that was here:
a gift of water where blue cranes
teetered into their westering
and the moon behind them rose from the weeds.
I would sort and classify those sounds:
the dour claxon of the crane,
the crickets and frogs still calling
from the storm drain.
Shall I dig further?
Past the middens of the Kaurna,
proving their earlier claim,
exposing old theft and murder.
Where is my heartland?
What if I dug clear through the earth,
emerging in Skara Brae,
that Orcadian flint in my family?
What if I climbed from the harbour at Kirkwall,
entered that shop with the soundless bell,
stood at the bench where great-grandfather Flett
finesses ships’ chronometers and doesn’t look up?
His clock faces stilled to stone.
Would these people want me back?
Should one lie down with ancestor bone?
- 96: NO THEME IXSUBMIT NOW with M Gill and J Thayil 95: EARTHCOMING SOON with M Takolaner 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