Sudden Rain, Tilba Tilba (갑작스런 비, 틸바 틸바*)

By | 22 May 2011

We no longer go out to paint,
unless the object to be represented is such that it cannot be transported.

– Lang Shi Ning (Giuseppe Castiglione, Qing Dynasty court painter)

The fly-screen door has only just banged shut
& already the hills have scraped themselves bare
of spotted gums & blackbutts. What’s left?
Mainly pasture, gleaming green with summer rain;
some granite extrusions & fencing.
It’s an alternative version of Australia,
glimpsed through the lacquered lattice work
of this ‘Pavilion for viewing hobby farms’.

From the pavilion, designed in a tin-shed vernacular,
our sight lines stitch the view together
though livestock, crammed into a semi-trailer
blurring up the highway, might disagree
with their knife-edged human narrative.

Shadows cast by the corrugated awning
lengthen, shorten, then lengthen again.
Sunday fairs come & go: fruit preserves
& 70s bric-à-brac change hands;
the salt-crusted Alvey fishing reel, unwanted
on its trestle table, is a container of dawns
spent casting out from waves’ edge.

If idylls have a conclusion, I am yet
to find a happy one. In the distance
a walking trail bifurcates the mountain side
into twin histories, both deformed like a prediction
that unpicks itself one brick at a time.

We count the threaded ways in which
to immortalise the scene:
that chestnut mare, will it be recalled
in heroic oils & low-slung light or perhaps
the framework of a Chinese technique –
the grass as negative space upon which float
the black-ink strokes of eucalypts?

Whoever owns the postcard I sent you
from a country that one day will cease to exist
seems irrelevant. With the flick of a scholar’s sleeve,
the squeeze of a trigger, we picture
the dragon-spined rock shelf from which
I slip underwater into turquoise light, towards
sea urchins; the dreams of abalone & bream.

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