John K at Gathercole


Threshold Failure 

Our behaviour no doubt affected
by oil fumes from a leaky system,
a decentralisation of heating that makes
détournement with our bodies,
all thresholds fail. Fumes permeate
and will break through concrete in time,
the oil sitting and working its way down
and out. Fossils emerging from fuel
to hunt you down. They are still hungry.

Outside, wind blows hard off the Atlantic.
Our families came from here to escape starvation.
Mass graves everywhere, whole towns reduced
to memories, like the wolves of Mount Gabriel.
All angels, wolves and humans and formless
spirits we stop at thresholds—what will
happen now the thresholds have fallen?

Outside on the green, wet ground, gathered
in the gridwork of hedges, members of the crow
family crisscross and divvy up territory.
On the wooden crossbeams of the fence
a dozen jackdaws, swinging in and out
of hedges, greenspace and gables.

In trees losing leaves, maybe two dozen
rooks, maybe establishing a new rookery
in the face of jackdaw business. And ravens
on the chimneys call down and sound ‘spooky,’
distantly incarcerated voices we could draw
analogies and paradigms from. A deathly laugh
like a carnival ghost-ride. Collapsing thresholds.

And crows from home in memory.
They rule the dry and dusty places,
the zones of most intense fire risk. When
flames come, they fly slower than they could,
dragging thresholds of sparks across the tinder.

I am dizzy and less focused than I should be.
The fumes are weirdly strongest in the vestibule.
Through the front door into the chamber.
False threshold. For another door to negotiate
before passing into the house proper. The fumes
follow but are already inside to greet you.
You can see crow species through open windows
which want the fumes out, you can hear their crosstalk.


John Kinsella‘s most recent volumes of poetry are On the Outskirts (UQP, 2017) Firebreaks (WW Norton, 2016), Drowning in Wheat: Selected Poems 1980-2015 (Picador, 2016) and the three volume edition of his Graphology Poems 1995-2015 (Five Islands Press, 2016). His volumes of stories include In the Shade of the Shady Tree  (Ohio University Press, 2012), Crow’s Breath (Transit Lounge, 2015) and Old Growth (Transit Lounge, 2017).  His volumes of criticism include Activist Poetics: Anarchy in the Avon Valley (Liverpool University Press, 2010) and the just released Polysituatedness (Manchester University Press, 2017). He is Professor of Literature and Environment at Curtin University and a Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge University. With Tracy Ryan he is the co-editor of The Fremantle Press Anthology of The Western Australian Poetry (2017).

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