John Kinsella -- Five Derrida Poems
Fourth Essay on Linguistic Disobedience
“A text is not a text unless it hides from the first comer, from the first glance, the laws of its composition and the rules of its game.”
“Know all men by these presents, that I, Henry Thoreau, do not wish to be regarded as a member of any society which I have not joined.”
Taking the fifth, he avoided the traffic. The organism
wasn’t feeling comfortable, though the sun bright and everything blue.
In the canyons, prayers are trapped halfway; cooling,
eventually dropping — churned up by pedestrians and cars. Advocacy
redecorates, brings in old fireplaces, pronounces
death-again sentences on leather chairs.
I have no clubs and no belonging, though the marks — amatory, elegiac, territorial,
arbitrary — left by beak of ladder-backed woodpecker, or the claws
of the twenty-eight parrot, on the bark of differing geographies,
erase none of my loyalties. This is not romanticism.
Continuation of lines of branches and twigs in the leafless woods
takes us back, imploded to fractals, hesitant at the solid point
of interruption: soundless. In the rock-garden
skinks move out of the tepid, a willy-willy
weaves garlands out of the crop: gamenya,
tall and high on protein. This house is stranded in that field,
the roof is giving way and red brick crumbling.
There’s a well nearby fed by a spring. Salt-rings
mark decline. Birds here are shunned
and strings of fragments come undone.
What’s of me here? he asks, memory
faster than time, the whole lot imploding.
His Auntie will not visit the farmhouse she raised
children in; her new place is decorated with photos
of the old place, a curatorial space. Recently he went out
to take a look, preparing a report then abandoning it to a carmine sunset —
insects thick on the windscreen. The twenty-eights tracked the car
as always, white cockatoos abandoned mallee trees.
At the cross-roads a shearer or young driver
cut sick: figure-eights and ‘doughnuts’ engraved deep.
On the sign at the corner of Mackey and Cold Harbour Roads,
a fox was impaled — its tail bristled like headgear.
Bounty hunters call it ‘poling’, or ‘shishkebabing’.
It’s what you do with ‘foreign muck’. A sharp taste
in their food brings it on. The Needlings burnt without
touching the paddocks — it doesn’t happen like this anywhere else,
as far as we know. Sheep spread out evenly,
as if placed to make something happen.
Belonging to this is not desirable.
Unbelonging, I make conversation
with like-minded people. A wedge-tailed eagle is seen
on a fence-post and none of the party wants to shoot it. I select
this society. The guns will overwhelm you! a sceptic declares, safe
in the anonymity of the world wide web. We will absorb
consequences. Sun burns even in winter here,
skin mutating. Its despotic face is passionate and unrelenting,
making language form. A spoonbill sifts units of water,
silt-heavy and charged with mosquito larvae,
in the gulch, creek, ravine, stream, gulley…
solubility, intactness… not a technical piece in a legal sense,
an ‘impressionistic’ account as a means of redress,
just ice concurrent with heat.
[From Peripheral Light: Selected and New Poems, WW Norton, 2003]
That's the best place to look — today,
this morning, at this time of year:
it's bright and hot around there.
Two absences — the echidna
and meaning. Proof is here,
as told. Durable trees that hold
their leaves: hooves
breaking ground like Sensurround
and axe-blows ringing settlement.
Scratchings, markings that work
when working's almost done:
scant evidence of termites,
though phonic libraries resound.
In listening, close to ground.
Plosive catch and guttural plough.
Mother tongues and history.
You can't refer, an English critic
says: Saussure apocryphal and sporting
with locals — shooting signs
in road holes. Shout down,
public audit, echidna in parenthesis —
keeping low within perimeters
country town not promoted
within its written prejudices.
Heidegger and Poetry (Istrice 2)
for Niall Lucy
of the damaged
outside the zoo —
a rarity —
of crows in twin dead trees
near the glue works: chain
lettering, so many;
so many of them.
in the open,
on the roadside
slightly out of view:
so low so slow
tall trees — just white gums
and red gums — people
you know, verticals,
the higher ups
over the lower dead.
How do you timeframe fire
to prevent fire
I take the rollover,
quilled ball of tale,
What do we give
on the up and up?
It’s the Southern Highway
I drive home. Honest,
that’s the route
of the errant.
waiting to happen,
even where lanes
double — briefly
Echidna Elegy: IMM Jacques Derrida
Gross diagnosis is signed by the roadside;
or what a roadside might be if they wreck the trees,
take up access, if in scanning we take our spoken
presence; those diggings acclaimed and celebrated
prove to be rabbit testings, and not the echidna
we’d hoped for; does it make a difference?
I sense an echidna nearby and take pleasure
in this desire I might have as photograph
taken in shadow — a risk, an actual distance,
a narration wished out of hiding, though it’s too bright
for an echidna, blazoned affirmative to roll as cylinder,
coil in the tree-base hollow, bristle out of the cinders.
In everything the word echidna is echidna
where population is depleting, where a short
burst of termite activity — intense — brings
the liveness of monsters to propensity; where
are the anomalies? Where the historicity
of domestication and trauma? After the show
you sat with us and translated echidnas —
no language you’d have yourself recognise,
no language you’d have as event: the claw
clasped over our hands is the hand that digs,
its marks a transmission of shocked awakening,
diverting us from trails of proper meaning.
Canto of Abandoned Hope (Derrida and Dante, Inferno 3)
This is back-engineering. I have passed through the gate
and been through the bowels of the earth, passed out
into lambency. Today I took the children to Gwambygine,
to the bird lookout over one of the few permanent pools
left to the river. We stood quiet and then in the splay
of a dead tree a pair of Splendid Fairy Wrens
appeared, the bright male a gift out of death,
all tropes shed and risen over the riparian foliage.
Though its colour was muted and mutable,
the twitching of its tail diced bathos, calling
the female to the tine of the fork opposite. Intense.
Though vulnerable and breaking down,
swamp she-oak, paperbark, and even needle trees,
meliorated the floodfringe, bone-white with salt. The kids
were quiet but ecstatic, and said that though a sad window,
a precipice into a shadow place, the lookout becomes
a warning sign that passers-by just don’t get: it’s better
going there than avoiding the damaged remnants.
The light wasn’t strong though it was hot, an overcast
valley that compelled you to breathe slightly short, the end result
a semi-neutrality that was deceptive. We read on a metal sign:
possums might feed at night, hiding at day in a paperbark hollows
along the river, but foxes have probably caught them out,
on nights where dark translates the lambent less and less.
[From The Divine Comedy: Journeys Through A Regional Geography, WW Norton, 2008]
Kinsella's poetry is an antidote to the
homogeneity and apathy inculcated in
us by consumerism and so many of
the mass media. As an old man, I
consider myself fortunate indeed
to have discovered a great contemporary poet
who speaks (as do all true poets) directly to the heart.
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