• Paul Munden




The little clay tablet is cracked

across the dial where a river

leads south from mountain

to swamp.

                     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.