Spirits of Place
Still clinging to the folds and bends Along the little creek, hemmed in between The fence lines, those brief ends Of forest look pristine, From back here, a refugium, Not just of trees, but of the time before. That is, until I come More closely to explore. Then through the undergrowth, itself A tanglement of weeds, and in the creek, Which pools from sandstone shelf To shelf, at last to leak Its half-choked and discoloured runnel Over a sheared-off lip and then be lost In a stormwater tunnel, Lies, naturally, the tossed And crumpled litter, bags and cans, One rusty shopping trolley, a dumped fridge, And a length of pipe that spans The gap beneath the bridge. And overhead the clouds are cuds Of sodden newsprint and the sky is drowned
In the dun sludge that floods The hollows in waste ground. But over there, on that expanse Of grass, four herons, utterly self-possessed, Stand still, and then advance, And come again to rest, Absorbed behind the light as they Inspect the stations of the slope and swale, And all around the day Is hanging like a veil. With slow and ghostly pace they wear The folds of that grey fabric they step through, The air, or more than air, Which seems their substance too.