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.