Issue > Poetry
John Kinsella

John Kinsella

John Kinsella's most recent books of poetry are Firebreaks (WW Norton, 2016) and Drowning in Wheat (Picador, 2016). He is a Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge University, and Professor of Literature and Sustainability at Curtin University, Western Australia.

This Elegy Might Not Be Wanted: A Wheatbelt Funeral


I am not naming names because this elegy
might not be wanted. No reason for that, outside
a suspicion of metaphor, a life largely free

of the figurative laid to rest. Pragmatic.
War welder when the men were in the desert.
Wool factory in Yorkshire from fourteen.

Migration. Following a son across the Nullarbor.
Taking no salt, no sugar. Frank Sinatra to be played
at the service. A hundred and five is history's marginalia.

Maybe this poem is about her son, Guru,
who tends Jam Tree Gully when we're away.
In his grief he ensures a supply of fresh water.

We are grateful. It is an immense gesture.
An offering. He tells us the lemon tree
is in flower. It is a personal triumph

resonating with synecdoche. A house-
building man with broken nails, he operates
at tangents but still follows the plumb-line.

I hope he wants this elegy, that it brings
comfort. His mother suspected I was up to
no good with words, but also wondered.

The Dragon I Saw Rising Out of the Bog:


The dragon I saw rising out of the bog,
wisps of marsh gas wreathing common reeds,
was tattooed with the words of Heaney's

'Act of Union'—hoard jewels embedded
in its scales. A man and woman stopped in
a car—he stepped out from the passenger's

side to piss into black water, oblivious
to the dragon hovering overhead. I asked
a friend, and he said, Locals can't see

what to outsiders sticks out like a sore
thumb. It sounded perverse—you can't
always tell when he's taking the piss.

But then he added, The cultural pages
of the Irish Sunday Times are edited out
of London. And the Queen's ninetieth

birthday. The dragon had more than one head.
Heads rolled. I saw it rising out of the bog,
wisps of marsh grass wreathing common reeds,

and the Easter 1916 'celebrations' placing
border zones on a war-footing. Explosives
found in the boot of a car. Masked men marching

in Dublin. Rising out of the bog, bejewelled.
Thrushes tremulous in the hedges. Tourists.
The dragon too aware of its mythical status.

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