Pavane; or, A Mouthful of Bright Blue Prayers

Kookaburras in a tree
Kookaburras in a tree. Photo by Jaraslavd/Flickr

I thought it said on the girl’s red purse
A kind of sad dance and all day
Wondered what was being defined . . .
The real love that follows
Early delight and ignorance.
A wonderful sad dance that comes after.
– Jack Gilbert, “Pavane”

I may be sitting inside the best afternoon 
The world has put on since the Permian 
                    Except for the solicitous
Passage of a few cars, like the last birds,
Along the road out front, you might think 
The world had stopped breathing. 
The kookaburras start up like a brass band
Out of practice, and the children’s voices
Tumble from the house like applause.
The wind picks up a stitch in time and
Drops it in the amber elms.
                                             From the pear trees 
That stand at my study window, fruit hang heavy
In the harvested light.   
                                     And the afternoon is a blue
Pavane, dancing gravely by in geologic time,
Her eyes closed, her lips parted, and her mouth
Full of catastrophic promises.

Photo by Daniel Boud

Mark Tredinnick is a poet, nature writer, and essayist. The winner in 2011 of the Montreal Poetry Prize and in 2012 of the Cardiff Poetry Prize, he is the editor of Australian Love Poems and the author of Australia’s Wild Weather, The Blue Plateau, Fire Diary, and eight other books. His new book of poems, Bluewren Cantos, will appear in early 2014. He is a founding member of the Kangaloon Group of Concerned Artists and Scholars. Read more at his website