Kangaroos – The 100 Days Project: Day 25 [76]

        Marsupial

by Judith Beveridge

I am happy to live with them, though they pre-date us;

 

the ones with bruised eyes and an outback look,

 

in their fur, grey dust and red rock,

in their teeth the stains of grasses,

in their stride the long legs of miles –

and to see in their barely weathered skulls, their ancestors

who crouched on the plains at dusk.

 

But sometimes looking at them, there is a feature

not accountable to time or habitat: a vague link

to a lost continent.

This country of old holes, graves, tree-stumps,

of tribal animals double-mothering their young;

seed-gatherers of equal work, free but naturally domestic,

 

not bondservants to the taste of blood or work of seasons;

of creatures who live their simple culture in a soil

that can shut down for summers against the simplest root.

Beside them, I feel like a new animal unlicked at birth

scratching for fosterage in a place

transplanted like top-soil from Europe full

of service animals. Ground can shift

 

and leave species to start up again.

But the Earth evolves its creatures: whatever

its conditions we adapt, match our landscapes.

So I see them, sleepy and relaxed

in the eucalyptus dens of our continent,

or wandering the yellow bush at evening,

 

carrying young in the warm swags of their wombs,

loving the land; itinerant, but placed.

I envy them their hippie-lives, these marsupials,

the alternative animals, doped on leaves,

happy to retire on the oldest landmass.

this queer evolution won, the long arbitration

with Nature in the courts of Gondwanaland.

Photo: Ray Mjadwesch

Photo: Andras Berkes-Brandl

One of the most distinguished and awarded of contemporary Australian poets, Judith Beveridge (b. 1956) has published five full collections of her work – The Domesticity of Giraffes (1987), Accidental Grace (1996), Wolf Notes (2003), Storm and Honey (2009), and Devadatta’s Poems (2014) – and, in the United States, a selected poems, Hook and Eye (2014). She teaches at the University of Sydney.

 

'Marsupial' is from The Domesticity of Giraffes.

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