• Carmen Leigh Keates


On our ascent there is a shale-stone grotto

some call the most comfortable bus shelter in Tasmania,

since it is tended by a local who has placed inside it

knitted cushions and rugs, and a coffee table with old books.

I want to get a picture but I’m sitting on the wrong side

and we’re moving too fast.

            Opposite, there is a chapel,

the only structure that wasn’t destroyed in the fires

unlike the health club, never rebuilt, which holds

quite a place in the mountain’s lore. The health club was never

rebuilt, our guide repeats, just after mentioning the massacre

of the aborigines. It was just up there.


On top of Mount Wellington it is snowing

a kind of stinging dust and we are told we can go

and have a look around and return to the bus

whenever we get too cold. This is where I’ll be!

says our guide through the steam

that rises from his open flask.



Last year I dreamed I saw

the plan for some wunderkind’s novel

laid out on the floor of a warehouse.

Chalk outlines of different continents

and Scandinavian coasts were drawn

on the bitumen. Regions demarcated.

Artifacts grouped on blue tarps.

Everything was meant to be

viewed from above. But my sense of novelty

and interest was tripped by the bewildering advent

of a holding hospital for souls—in this square

kings had been laid, weirdly crosshatched like sunken canoes.

Every big figure of our world was here. A life-size wooden Jesus,

sleeping, rough-hewn as if made by a child in Mexico.



Our tour guide says we can go to that viewing platform

from which we’ll get a nice look at the inside of a cloud.

An ice-rain shapes a rank of sugary coastlines along the gangway.

I am so abruptly freezing that I am laughing;

in bursts I take photos of the ice-plants at my feet until

I cannot stand keeping my hands exposed.


And so at the pinnacle, inside a cloud, instead of

looking out far into the distance, we are drawn

to the groundcover, coral-like, not stunted

but just small, like things underwater,

short, almost like fanning synapses,

but no—this is all maps!


The volcanic rubble and the coral plants make up

a topographic hieroglyph of the landscape below,

set here just for these times when below cannot

be seen. This mountain is a pyramid.



In the warehouse they had it all laid out,

as though writing this story meant deploying

every wave of history at the right time

in order to premeditate what was to come.

This writer was revealing something he knew to be right

but its elements had to first be arranged properly,

tended, for it to have a chance to manifest at all.

What he was preparing to reveal

would as much be disclosed to himself

as it would be shown to others.

The two acts of revelation were to converge

so that readers would read this thing

at the very moment it emerged from him—

like breath made visible by the cold, the story would

come out and it would change everything. This is why

it was all set out on the floor and though

we had heard no specific words as yet addressed to us,

simply present, we were all stewards to this;

we were strangely activated, or anticipating activation.

Again and again we looked over the arrangement

and as we walked through we were careful not to

interrupt one thing in this great, mad deployment.



We are told not to worry about not being able to see

for we will simply descend to about a thousand feet

and everything will be revealed. There’s a special place.

And indeed there is. We go down. I fill my bottle

from a snow-melt waterfall. The view is no longer like a map.

In the foothills the ground has been given back over

to thick Banksias and any variety of white-trunked gums

that from a distance look like toothpicks in a scale model of this forest

but not this forest itself.