The very first poem in Robert Gray’s very first book (Creekwater Journal, 1983) describes his going home. It goes like this:
Journey: the North Coast
Next thing, I wake up in a swaying bunk.
as though on board a clipper
lying in the sea,
and it’s the train, that booms and cracks,
it tears the wind apart.
Now the man’s gone
who had the bunk below me. I swing out,
cover his bed and rattle up the sash—
there’s sunlight rotating
off the drab carpet. And the water sways
solidly in its silver basin, so cold
it joins together through my hand.
I see from where I’m bent
One of those bright crockery days
that belong to so much I remember.
The train’s shadow, like a bird’s,
flees on the blue and silver paddocks,
over fences that look split from stone,
and banks of fern,
a red clay bank, full of roots,
over a dark creek, with logs and leaves suspended,
and blackened tree trunks.
Down these slopes move, as a nude descends a staircase,
slender white gum trees,
and now the country bursts open on the sea—
across a calico beach, unfurling;
strewn with flakes of light
that make the whole compartment whirl.
Shuttering shadows. I rise into the mirror
rested. I’ll leave my hair
ruffled a bit that way—fold the pyjamas,
stow the book and wash bag. Everything done,
press down the latches into the case,
that for twelve months I’ve watched standing out
of a morning, above the wardrobe
in a furnished room.
(Gray 1998, 2)
foto – yacht on clarence river 2009