All through the flight you’ve had Cavafy
playing in your mind. Is it true that arriving here
is what you’re destined for? Call it homing
rather than homecoming, for once the airport
doors seal the vacuum of miles and time,
it’s as though you’ve never been gone.
An easterly blows from the night-washed hills,
the air is warm and soft as ironed cloth. You breathe
blue flames of eucalypt, till your body unlocks
its prodigal shape, and distance is cleansed
from your bones. Since you went away, your life
has lacked its tinder. You’ve tried to belong
elsewhere, gathered knowledge from scholars, bought
fine things. Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—you’ve carried them all
in your soul. But this place has burned in you
since birth, coloured your sleep with cochineal,
shrilled it cobalt blue, and your body won’t quit
trying to pull you back, searching for the heart
it buried in the dirt, a lodestone fired
in desert and sky, cooled in the Indian Ocean.
Blue flames breathe in you. Way beyond the rim
of the airport lights, you know there’s emptiness
as full as you’ve ever seen, where you become part
of the scansion of land, its accents of Spinifex
and schist. Gorges brim with a brazen edge.
A daytime moon spreads a scallop
of lace. Hills mount a ghost-hazed wave.
You wait as the bleach of afternoon light
darkens to the palette of dusk. Lilac. Plum.
Russet. Silver-sage. This land has archived
colour and time, when you press your palm
against the warmth of stone, you touch
the whole earth’s story. And if yours
were the only skin left behind to recite
from the chronicle of place? Embedded
in this dossier of rock, in ancient script,
are words which make sense of home.
But will you ever learn how to own
their shapes? Will this be your Ithaka?
1 December 2013