"...the Howlin' Wolf of Hull poetry..." georgiasam blog
Cliff's latest collection Vandemonian (Arc, 2013) focuses on Van Diemen's land and its inhabitants – human and animal, newcomer and Aborigine – to piece together a fragmentary history of Tasmania. For further details and the Arc website, click here.
62 seconds of the extinct Thylacine or Tasmanian Tiger on film.
Within the box, it growls, it twists,
scowls through its repertoire of tricks,
ignores the camera — or gurns up close, turns
again, to flop, to gnaw that paw-trapped bone.
It paces out its trap of light; one hundred reps
while hindquarters zither bars of sun;
claws cage’s mesh, hangs stretched
as if to take the measure of itself.
You saw. You see. And what we’ve got is what was shot:
short clips, fragments caught and stitched
together in a loop of black and white.
Nine lives? Not quite. It’s down. It’s out.
It’s on its feet and born again. Like a repetition
compulsion, like… like reincarnated light.
Click here to see the extinct Thylacine or Tasmanian Tiger on film
And here he is, ‘Old Hairy’,
red and skinny, tough as boots,
four thousand years old if he’s a day;
forever flat out and in pursuit
of . . . whatever. The chase goes on and on.
That endless prey’s his last: the one
that’s slipped its skeleton through a crack in stone,
a white shadow in the rock that’s worn him down
to skin and bone. That’s skin? That’s bone?
(To the south, earth shifts, Tassie breaks free:
distant cousins in cold high woods, cut off by sea.)
Dry as parchment, brittle as sticks:
Mummified mainland thylacine,
found base of shaft, Nullarbor Plain, ’66.
In inverted commas
Others are Disney-flat, out-run cartoons
who’ve failed to burrow into tarmac,
who’ve found it far too hard, too black.
At this one’s mouth, a speech-balloon
where asphalt’s slick and almost pink,
as if someone’s scrubbed long and hard at red
daubed words, the rumour’s near indelible ink.
Haunches, muddied pelts, dithered paws,
little fangs gnawing on the camber;
snouts punctuated by inverted commas of claws:
irony or speech marks, a question mark of tail,
rising like the intonation you get round here.
So politely put. But a question nonetheless.
Demands sometime, sometime quite soon, you answer, “Yes.”
“Loop” and "Old Hairy" first appeared in Poetry Wales. There is another poem from the Tiger sequence here.