As I Was Walking Through The Bush

By Nick Coyle
Issue 4, Spring 2011

nick coyle as i was walking through the bush

As I was walking through the bush,
Big sun rolling gold in the gums, I
Met a kangaroo, a big one too
Propped up on shaky arms.

‘Wait, mate,’ he whispered,
Voice flanked by white foam, red
‘Hark you to me, I’ve a secret for thee
Before I’m called home, dead.’

I saw his hind legs were missing
Torn off and taken away, and
His blood was pooling and cooling;
I heard his sick voice say:

‘Follow the groove in the mountain
To the gorge where the gone river ran. There’s
A boulder there, looks like a bear
Near a tree that looks like a man.

‘Watch until tilting morning
Makes their shadows overlap. Dig
In the earth, for all you’re worth,
Where claw and hand clap.’

At that the wretch pitched forward:
Gull against a painting of the sea. In
The dirt where lay he pointed the way
And his dead eyes looked at me.

So I walked and I found the rock,
Found the tree that looked like a man, but
By then the day had wandered away
So I chose to make my camp.

Three times that night I was woken.
Three times I awoke from my rest.
Once by a howl, once by a growl,
Once by a hand at my chest.

But my fears burned up in the dawn,
And I waited and watched and saw, as
The shadows spun, sundials in the sun,
And the tree took the rock by the paw.

Right there’s where I dug in a frenzy
For gold I prayed laid ‘neath the soil: A
Pouch of jewels, rolled up dollar bills,
A sky-high geyser of oil.

Though I dug until I was neck deep,
Though I dug till the day was darkling,
Met maggot and weevil, spider and beetle
By dusk, I had uncovered nothing.

Some sites have a bad alignment:
And a forlorn hum that lingers. Thrice
That night I awoke in fright
By the howl and the growl and the fingers.

But! That couldn’t stop me digging,
Like a dog, till my knuckles were raw. When
They scraped against wood, I stopped and stood,
There at my feet was a door.

I don’t know why, I’ll never know why,
It wasn’t a choice I could track, but
I knocked three times and from inside
Something else knocked back.

The sky jimmied up higher.
Whooshing air like a nurse rushed in.
Something sly, opened its eye.
I heard a violin.

All the strength of my shaking arms,
All my muddy fingers bending, I
Pried the lid ajar, looked in and saw
A staircase descending, descending.

Having no candle I squirmed starless,
Into that blackest of blacks, and
Alone in there, went down the stair
A flame sinking in wax.

Oh! A terrible time it took,
Timid feet on the helix unspooling, where
They shouldn’t be, like a cat in the sea,
Or blood on the ground, cooling.

‘I’ll walk ten steps then retreat.
Five steps, now just five steps more.’ But
I didn’t turn round, and I’d soon lost count,
Counting at least three score.

My hands groping the unseen,
Recoiled when they met something there. But
I understood, feeling handle and wood
I had come at last to a door.

Don’t ask me why, I don’t know why,
I can’t say why, honestly, but
I rapped on that door as I had before
And something answered me.

Dark portal, creaking, opened,
And a vision blurred into focus: A
Velvet room flared out of the gloom,
Scent of smoke and crocus.

I saw a table of rosewood,
Gold goblets, bread, coffee, and rice, figs
Brandy-swollen and feathers stolen
From the birds of paradise.

At the head a woman watched me
Between a man and a big brown bear. He
Was grizzle thin, she was porcelain.
The Kodiak offered a chair.

I sat on a leather throne.
A greyhound on my lap lay its head. The
Moon in the window lit a bay up below,
Fireflies strained on silk thread.

Halved by shadows the woman
Said: ‘We have been waiting for you.’ On
A silver plate she cut some meat
From the thigh of a kangaroo.

As I ate, a bat in a wicker cage
Smiled me a capsized smile, while
An ocelot wound, a love-knot around
My ankles all the while.

‘You have come from far away.
You are tired, now rest,’ she said. ‘When
The truth comes beware –‘ but I was like ‘Yeah.
I get it guys, I’m dead.’

Then by the potbelly stove
We lay on the rug in the glow: me
In the middle while the man played the fiddle
And the bear sang a slow song low.

Shut-eyed, the horsehair ballad
Had the world’s sorrow bound tight,
Tumbling o’er my head like shook fairy bread,
All the colours of broken light.

Never had such billowing calm
Befell me as with those three. The
World I woke up in, all but forgotten,
A dogeared tapestry.

Then a crack of the boiling sap,
Sent me back to the bush bleak and lonely,
Grappling again with that band of men
Who cut my throat and took my money.

Propped up in gritty gizzards
Like a hobbled kangaroo? I’d
Rather be here than alone up there,
With nothing but dying to do.

Let me sidestep the monster,
Who nipped at my heels in the race. Let
The world spin away, who cares anyway,
I was never much fond of the place.

I was just a spy of the bloodburner
Who looks out on us at its dominion. Who
Looks out of the baby when the old one dies,
And wonderfully has no opinion.

Purchase the issue here.
Posted 23 April 2013

george-stubbsThe Kongouro From New Holland, George Stubbs, 1773


Nick Coyle is writer, actor, theatre-maker, and model who lives in Sydney. He is is responsible for the plays Rommy, Me Pregnant!, and Double Tribute. He hosts Versus on FBi Radio every Sunday morning.