Tracing Boyd


Might have been those birds on the first day, suddenly

two red-tailed black cockatoos in the tree above

as you wheezed up the vertical new concrete road

fanning out quick translucent feathers against the sky

dripping the same blood red as his palette, squawking

a quick vertigo of disorientation, an overlay of presences

that hit hard somewhere between gut and head.

Or else perhaps the wall-sized painting that graced

all our meals and to which not just at readings

the audience turned its back: the way this small

man’s generous soul seemed replete with dark

ancient things that lay red, black and bleeding

like totems separated by a burning hole

framed by a lost and leaning charcoal tree 

a shepherd’s crook, while above the silver line

of river the Sussex church of his childhood

led the eye up to an open English sky.

Getting closer, the hushed entry into the cool

sandstone relief of his home at Bundanon,

shoes removed as in a baroque library or mosque

take a seat in the family room, drinks

will be arriving soon and this is his painting

of the Bomb over the Shoalhaven, he took an interest

in topical things like the survival of the world,

the family polite genteel bohemians

who caused a stir by growing long hair

and grass, making landscape paintings

portraits, pots, correcting the children’s speech

while Arthur cycled his easel round Mornington

looking for the right light that he finally found

in ‘71 when the hot loud canvas of a Shoalhaven

summer dripped his colours into the sand

and cicada machines pulsed his brain

up into the frequencies of that special light.

Later in hope’s green wedding dress his wife

Yvonne stared desperately from the wall

as we were led from house to studio

through a drought-dry grove of English trees.

[Tracing Boyd won first prize in the 2009 Melbourne Poets Union International Poetry Competition; the photo shows the Boyd painting referred to in the poem at the Bundanon centre. The poem has stanza breaks that WordPress unfortunately won’t recognise.]


~ by Peter Lach-Newinsky on December 1, 2009.

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