This poem was written in 2017 as part of the Skywriters Project.

“The Dish”, Parkes, NSW. Photo by Sarah MacKean.

Sic Itur Ad Astra

If I ignore the trampled grass
The ugly grooves and cutting hooves of snorting cows
Stamping through soft nomad paths
In the brave new world of New South Wales

If I ignore the shiny coils of dung on altar floors
The iridescent feasting flies that spot these sacred groves
The emptied temples, limbless trees

If I ignore the glint and glitter of metal stars
Bounded wires that scratch and dispossess
The crisp and disappearing wilderness
And the lives and the meaning before us

If I put down my map, my compass, my level and my rule
My measuring of the miles
If I pretend I am not with these noisy breathing sweating men
I am not shifting in the oozing heat on a canvas sheet
Swatting at gnats at the end of a day
Surveying the brave new world of New South Wales

If I look away from the ruined mosaic
All the broken lines, all the drifting songs
And look up I see
Black swatches of velvet smeared with cream
The smudge of a billion stars
And the brilliance of a sparkling ribbon
Forever dancing through an infinite night

I catch in a blink the arching flash
Of a star flung off and burning to its end
I think as all we shadows think
Beneath the ever pointing stars how small we are and fast forgotten
Sic itur ad astra

A shiny scrap of hubris, a poet’s polish in a vanishing tongue
Gilded with the flourish of Apollo
The god’s yellow gleam has no meaning in this burning world
Under heavens never seen from Olympus
I am flattened by a strange milky sky curdled with stars
Sic itur ad astra

The way of the gods, the priests and the heroes,
The hopers, the hunters, the chasers of stars
Our little ships braving uncharted seas
So many golden dreams and destinies
So much hot desire
To conquer the spinning world
The storms of our stories and the silences too
The marching future scuffed from the dust
Fresh footsteps in the ash of distant lands

Little, lonely, lost in time
They are none of them even the tiniest stepping stone
To the twinkling river of stars

And yet unconquered
The glittering pinpricks beckon
And one fine night above this fallen garden
A little ship will surely brave the dark and
We questing specks will sail the southern skies


© Sarah MacKean 2017


And this piece of bush poetry, also written in 2017, is a tribute to the many fruit bats that flew past my balcony in Darlinghurst, Sydney at the turn of the century, and now fly over my yard in Parkes.

Full moon. Photo by Sarah MacKean.

The Mulberry Tree

At the back of the yard stands my mulberry tree
Each summer its shade drops cool fingers on me
Its fat red berries
Flavour my sherries
But come autumn just guess what I see

The moon almost risen, I raise up my eyes
Four columns of fruit bats are filling the skies
Their blundering wings
The very first things
To present an unwelcome surprise

The berries don’t glitter in evening’s cloud
But their smell might attract this fruit-loving crowd
I’m fearing the worst
Is my mulberry cursed?
But the buggers flap by, black and proud

All night I am restless, my calm is in pieces
Destroyed in a swoop by a protected species
They’ll roost in my tree
So tempting and free
They’ll ruin my lawn with their faeces

I stride out at dawn with a simple solution
The risk is too great of my green in pollution
I pick up my saw
And by twenty past four
The tree is beyond restitution

In the gathering dusk I am hot and I’m pissed
They’ve stolen my shade and my sherry lacks twist
The bastards fly by
In a hot treeless sky
Each one cursed with a shake of my fist


© Sarah MacKean 2017


Page created 26th September 2017