for Robert Adamson in Australia


in wattled trees 
run a song 
from reel to reel 

in slow reverse. 
What I feel 
I felt. Rain 
hurtles toward 
its source.



On work detail at Mount Penang 
Training School for Boys, you built a road 
to nowhere—bittern in the rain, 
addressing stumps and clarts 
with half-remembered songs. 

Holy on! Holy off! 
Learning time from appetite, 
you made a half-loaf last 
by rolling each pinch back to dough, 
or “viper raising” [prison slang]. 

At night, you read What Bird Is That? 
before the lights went out.



Now, in sight of Lion’s Head, 
you cut the outboard engine. “Look, 
a butcher bird!—which Whitely gave 
the eyes of Baudelaire.” 

To keep amused, we crush bits 
of sandwich bread for bait 
and fish for Tuti, cross-eyed cat 
of porches, purring on the wharf 
in expectation. Checking lines, 
you lean across the gunnel and sort 
a shadow flock from schools 
of substance, jellyfish from cloud; 
between them intervenes 
a nest of fine white hair. 



Further out than we will go, 
breakers squander, recompose; 
time curls back on time. 



Take a garfish caught 
amidst uncertainties 
of early fog 
and wrapt in sheets 

of Water Leaf 
and say what chrome 
of Customlines 
has faded from its scales. 

Distinguish frequencies 
of short-wave radios 
from the mimicry 
of cockatoos. 

Explain to those who ask 
how white was ever false, 
or how to mix 
a perfect Whitely blue. 

Then speak of things 
that everybody knows.