Venie Environmental Poetry Prize

Nature is a Misreading by Michael Farrell

It’s 10am. He’s already talked to the birds and flowers
If to be human is to be baroque, he would like to feel
more involved, or more complex. Originality is
concerned with origins he believes. But no one knows
what came before language, or before language became
a way of talking about things beyond itself. He’s bored
with hunting. He wants to explain to someone about
fences and water, about joining as separation. She wants
them to act out the scene of the sea, its fields of endless
sunflowers. There’s blood already on the flame trees and
waratahs. If it means anything it’s to do with time. All
face the sea. Our homemade tarts cool on a rock ledge

A small spaceship appears in the sky like a placebo for
thinking. We’ve had no bites for ages, though we
ourselves eat readily. And while attentive to our
surroundings, not having been in this part of the country
before, all our remarks tend to the literary. Little books
sprout from our lips like flowers in a surrealist painting
Goannas flow upwards and across our communal vision
like r’n’b heroines. Is that literary? Regularly, I might as
well admit, I go up to the house to check for messages.
But each time Oliver, our kelpie, preempts me from the
verandah: nothing, he barks rapidly, nothing. Regularly
I assume, it’s easier if your life is busier. There’s no one

in town who can do the things he wants done, so he
learns to do it himself or goes someplace bigger. On the
train in the seats in front of him people are reading
books with titles likes Trees Are Shady Aren’t They? and
My Heart Wants To Jump Like A Kangaroo. The driver’s
accent makes Rockville station sound like Wreckville

Everything’s already ruined, he thinks of his own speech
and of new inventions as kinds of amalgam. He represses
the word ‘nature’. He’s glad he lives where his whole
culture is an ethical conundrum, but as Molly says, is
life anything else? Are trees shady? he asks his nephew
experimentally. Does the heart ever jump like a

kangaroo? Blahblahblah says his nephew, do you even
care? He draws a picture of Jesus with a crown of bees
Later, he will form a band. Nothing resonates, Molly
says regularly, with regards to the floor. Falling asleep
her favourite book also falling. A priest disguised as a
yoga instructor tells her, find a hole, live in it. The
bullfrogs grow louder as he speaks. Cricket season is
coming on. Tennis season is coming on. There are
drawbacks to a rural education: it can turn your
sympathy in the wrong direction. If blackberries now
taste like Latin or rust or bit-coin, perhaps today’s kids
will still eventually, be nostalgic for them anyway

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