The little clay tablet is cracked
across the dial where a river
leads south from mountain
And that's it –
the four corners of the earth
cradled in your palm
like an all-purpose gadget.
Where knowledge runs out,
the artist, all at sea, conjures
a monstrous fish from the folds
of vellum, so expressively drawn
it surely has something urgent
to tell you, some intimation
of how everything will change,
but it's too far-fetched,
too terrible, too soon.
Someone has remembered
the winds (two with turbans)
and the stars, overlaid like a net
to catch our dreams.
Paradise, which I think of
as a bar in the Giardini,
is a world apart, a fortress
to the right of the parchment crease.
The eastern coast of Nouvelle Hollande
requires a theory (French, of course)
but oh dear, what a lifeless attempt,
such a crude apology
for a cartographer's line
made ragged by the surf.
Grains of red sand shift in the breeze
and the software is updated.
The National Library is re-named
for the day as Shell Australia
and the scholars lose their bearings,
gawping at ancient shipments
of kerosene, and a liquefied gas plant
floating in the north-west.
The red sand is crushed house-brick.
Walk on it and listen to marching troops.
You wake today bereft and look
for solace as always in the sea.
You know these waters
like the back of your hand, shaped
to cut a familiar pathway
through the waves, but this morning,
surging out of the beautiful blue
comes the whale
in all its corporeal grandeur,
its gentle fatherly bulk
befriending you, skin to skin.
Bless the fellow traveller, who
treading water, levels her hi-tech lens
to your new world: fixed, and true.