Skywatchers

1 February 2015

As we climb the dim-lit verges
of Observatory Hill, once Windmill Hill
bicycle lamps whirl past like fireflies,
orbiting in the dark
city kids kick-boxing or exercising
in green space, lights blinking on the Bridge.
We set up telescopes.

The sky is picketed with stars
a gibbous moon, its bent man bundling sticks,
a far-off plane, moving slowly, glowing
like a rogue planet. The lit-up time ball
that drops each afternoon at 1 pm
towers behind us
no longer calibrating ships’ chronometers
but accurate to the second.

The Emu in the Sky’s defined by nebulae
hundreds of light years away
visible against our Milky Way, body and legs
the trailing dust lanes to Scorpius, head resting
in the Coalsack dark nebula, a map to the Universe.
Once seen, like a Rorschach ink-blot
the night sky will never look the same again.

Far below, Fiona Hall’s
Folly for Mrs Macquarie, a filigree of cages
in Sydney Sculpture Walk, Botanic Gardens
images a self-imposed confinement
barbed wire, an axe, some bones
a domed roof of Norfolk Island pine
too brittle to make excellent ships’ masts.

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