Looking at Clouds and Currawongs

By | 15 September 2022

After Roberta Sykes

Wake at 6 am to currawongs lifting the brow
of the Queensland box & shell pink clouds bleed russet
in the glass specks of dirt on scale
with black birds beyond the wires
unnameable at this distance, lost from the window frame
like Bobbi Sykes’ sentinel lines falling
off the edge/ of my flat brain.

Walking these nights out of lockdown
Keep strict to the path, it’s not safe
to slip through garden gates
for winter oranges      Le Guin’s paradises lost
but now I understand the terror of flat earthers
Think of it: we live on the outside of a dirtball
in an incomprehensible sky.

Beyond my flat brain in the privet
a currawong swings on a branch
ripping off berries, this yellow eye
and that yellow eye on me
to a chorus further out of frame
singing currah currah currah-wong.

In this ink bleeding cloud in the sunrise
I might discern my emotional function
via intuition, algorithms or recollection
of a terror, not of writer’s block but Žižek’s intense hatred
of writing/ his take on The Shining illuminates
my spatial disturbance                  I keep in mind
a whole hotel might not stop us killing each other.

I remember my first time back in high school
the line that dragged me under my flat brain:
room upon room opened up
I was freefalling in mansions:
a sudden architecture against my teenage plunge
into vertiginous darkness.

Walking these days out of lockdown
to early morning saws, drills & grinders
but in these streets of compulsive renovators
many magpies hang out at ground level.
We make eye contact, I say hello
and keep trying to hear the universe
beyond B flat as textures of sound
held in bird space.

The currawong is exposed now
perched on the cold antenna
of the deep-pitched slate roof
whose skylights in summer refracting sun
to our window
burn our eyes out.

Stanza 4 borrows from Slavoj Žižek and Glyn Daly, Conversations with Žižek, Polity, 2004.

‘sentinel lines falling’ borrows from and ‘off the edge of my flat brain’ directly quotes Roberta Sykes’ ‘A poem for poets’, Love Poems And Other Revolutionary Actions, University of Queensland Press, 1988 (1979).

‘an incomprehensible sky’ borrows from and ‘on the outside of a dirtball’ directly quotes Ursula K. Le Guin’s ‘Paradises lost’, Birthday of the World, Harper-Collins, 2002.


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