We’d often see Rory outside the shed trying to classify
the clouds coming in on the evening wind — clouds
he thought were the farm’s clip of fine-grained wool.
On clear blue days he’d strike match after match
and try to class the smoke. My Aunt would say,
‘There’s Rory again, tricking ghosts.’ She’d told
me years ago, anthrax had turned his arms and legs
black as land stubbed with fire — wool-sorter’s disease
they called it then. These days he’ll look up, sigh,
walk as if he’s about to carry a bale’s weight of wool
towards a skirting table, his fingers feeling air
as if he were testing the wool fat, the tightness
of the crimp, inspecting it for burr and frib.
The shearers tease him, say his mind’s turned soft
as felt. Some days when the sky is full of wispy,
teased-out cirrus, Rory will say that some new shed-hand
has forgotten to sweep away the britch wool
left from the shearing. Sometimes you can hear him
auctioning off his bales, his prices unyielding, his tone
as twangy as a ring of blowflies. Winter mornings
he’s out with his arms raised up into a dense batting of fog.
On summer days he’ll be reaching towards a haze,
even bushfire smoke, or looking into the distance
for stray clouds, ready to coax them towards him
like orphaned lambs. Once one of the shearers stuck
a mess of dags and cotted wool to Rory’s head,
then took to him with rusty shears to do some wigging.
My Uncle punched the man so hard he reeled
round the yard like a whether with the ryegrass staggers.
Sometimes — when we catch Rory looking up
at the sky at a line of cumulus coming in — we smile
and say, ‘There’s Rory wool gathering again.’
- 102: GAMESUBMIT with J Maxwell and R Green 101: NO THEME 10COMING SOON with J Kinsella and J Leanne 100: BROWNFACE with W S Dunn 99: SINGAPOREwith J Ip and A Pang 97 & 98: PROPAGANDAwith M Breeze and S Groth 96: NO THEME IXwith M Gill and J Thayil 95: EARTHwith M Takolander 94: BAYTwith Z Hashem Beck 93: PEACHwith L Van, G Mouratidis, L Toong 92: NO THEME VIIIwith C Gaskin 91: MONSTERwith N Curnow 90: AFRICAN DIASPORAwith 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