Venie Environmental Poetry Prize

Black Swan Polyptych by Stuart Barnes

I am still
The black swan of trespass on alien waters.
—Ern Malley, ‘Dürer: Innsbruck, 1495’

One percolates java. A season burns.
The other spoons ant
after exciting
banded sugar ant onto windowsill. Subaru
fulcrum, The Weekend Australian,
newsagent’s ‘’Ow’re youse?’

Not unnerving oestral ewes,
the lovers whoop over Language’s urns,
harmonise Eliza Doolittle’s animalian
reprise. Chant
smooths artery, apple of Peru
blows skywards, inviting

black fruit bats, rufous owls, lighting
up the invisible moon’s jowls, the invisible yew’s
arils, the pure true
blue. Coconut palms shiver, herringbone ferns,
bougainvilleas. From the backseat tan pant
of bloodhound, first to disclose inalien

-able waters: mammalian
brilliance. Angelfish igniting
in the marina, Os of regal cant.
‘Don’t know what to make of the last Ted ’Ughes,
of Ted and I.’ One relieves the other’s concerns
by impersonating Faloo the roo.

‘You’re a marvel, through
& through, my marginocephalian.’
‘’Ark! David Byrne’s
version of ‘(Nothing But) Flowers’, uniting
synths & strings. Let Paradise fuse,
let Paradise supplant

the factories, the parking lots.’ ‘A xenotransplant
-ation.’ Light golden pink as Los Angeles’ folding into ecru
hills, Ken Done pink & blue drizzling over coral pews.
‘’Ere, my sesquipedalian,’
volunteering the Vixens. ‘A sighting!’
The peregrine falcon about-turns

: a tutelary deity churns
his incant-ation: feathery skywriting,
feathery margins blend. Headlights shine pru
-riently on pheasant’s eyes’ scarlets. ‘Ranalian,
once upon a time …’ ‘Ranunculaceous.’ ‘New’s

not necessarily better.’ One’s index pursues
the other’s whorls: a ticker overturns,
unfurls. ‘My rhynchocephalian
cowboy-confidant,
there, beneath the umbrella tree—’ ‘A potoroo!’
‘Rare as typewriting

or Goya’s bullfighting
etchings—’ ‘Sketches of our nephews.’
‘How’ll they look, I wonder?’ ‘Mullets, crew
cuts, beehives—’ ‘Wolverinish sideburns!’
Transparent eggplant
dips into tatterdemalion

farmhouses, sheds. ‘Daedalian,
these volcanic plugs.’ ‘Moonlighting
as Mulder?’ ‘The truth is—’ ‘In ’ere.’ Cant
-abile veer of windows. Darkness mews.
Nine times one turns
a dial: brush of ‘Frou-Frou

Foxes in Midsummer Fires’. ‘To some, this Proulx
short story’s bacchanalian.’
‘’Ogwash! Geese!’ Their heart’s cool air relearns
the warm white of striplighting.
Slow-cooked stew’s
musk. Bedside glow falls aslant

The Goldfinch. Neither of them will dream Rembrandt
into the following day’s brew.
‘Still have to cut bulbs for Huw’s
& Haydn’s—’ ‘Sleep, my madrigalian.’
Blank paper, handwriting.
Handstones, querns.

A banded sugar ant’s ferruginousness burns
in moonlight. The Subaru turns over its exciting
trip. Youse pulses the sinus node of every Australian.

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