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.






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.