The Forest

 

closes ranks, protecting

its last secrets.

 

What's left are stories,

a few photos

 

and digitized clips

of a tiger behind bars,

 

showing a marsupial pose

and bewilderment

 

that it should come to this:

stripes, skinned

 

from starkening ribs,

stretched and pinned

 

to a wall inscribed

with a roll call of killers.

 

One remaining foetus

floats in formaldehyde,

 

eyelids closed, oblivious

both to its demise

 

and the new bounty

on its head. I marvel

 

at the delicate solidity

of the unborn, half-

 

expecting the eyelid

to open and acknowledge

 

my disbelief that all this

is made of wood —

 

the animal alive

in the fluid grain — but

 

I can hear a gentle chisel

still at work, scrolling

 

furls of huon pine

to the thickening floor.

 

 

 

Opal

 

Melvin, a location scout, guides me

between the pyramids of grit

towards the burrows, all the people

turned rabbit, or mole.

 

He shows me the fist-width holes

drilled into his kitchen wall

to store wine, later the massive borings

that make an underground church.

 

Then we're picking our way

through the fossickings and man-trap

mine shafts: stumble here in the dark

and it's a matter of seconds until

 

you feel your spine compacting

to dust. Melvin leads me in

by a safer, steadier descent

through the labyrinth — glowing red

 

with shafts of man-trap light

that now let us breathe — while he

turns trickster, a pair of copper rods

bent into his grip and randomly

 

swivelling. It has to be a con — yes? —

but as I take the rods in my own hands

I sense the circuitry, the subtle tug

of a living compass formed

 

by my trembling grasp as I'm drawn

to the thick, silicate streak in the rock,

a milky rainbowed cloud, enough

to make the live wires swing suddenly

 

apart in a sort of ecstasy. I stare

at the irrefutable gleam, jism

splashed through mother earth,

diffracting the light into pure bliss.

 

Potch the lot of it, surely, but Melvin

— with what licence I don't know —

breaks a piece from the crumbling wall

and presents it. To me. A gift. For you.