I've always loved the outdoors and in 2012 my wife and I hiked in the Flinders Ranges, a low desert mountainous region starting 200 kms north of Adelaide, South Australia. One long day we hiked around the vast natural amphitheatre of Wilpena Pound, beginning at its single, muddy exit and climbing to its highest point, St Mary's Peak, only a little over 1000 metres in elevation. It's an environment to encourage meditation and this poem was the result. I blog at windofflowers.blogspot.com.au
Lines of low cliff rise abruptly out of arid flatness,
orange in sunlight but purple in shadow.
The scree slopes are dull with stone and desert plant.
There is music here, an uncompromising melody,
abrupt rhythms, discordant tone.
I strain to listen.
What is the song echoing
through these stern ranges?
Wilpena Pound has a single exit.
A trickle of water feeds a few muddy ponds.
Thickets of huge red gum, artesian fed,
stand sturdily upright or lie tangled
in patterns that momentary torrents of raging water,
briefly and angrily tearing through the gully,
heap along the now near dry river bed.
The music here is countermelody,
lyrical, lush, quiet, secluded,
an interval of contrast before the main theme
insistently and irresistibly sounds from tumbled rock,
thorny desert plants and uncompromising lines of cliff.
I climb to St Mary’s Peak.
Southwards stretches the amphitheatre of Wilpena Pound,
enclosed by its vast circle of quartzite walls.
A tenuous scratch of track winds into the Pound.
Northwards the ridged lines of rugged mountains
run in parallel formation to the far horizon,
their boundaries marked, their height and shape fixed
countless millennia before the brief moments
of conquering Alexander or Sennacherib,
or law-maker Moses or wandering Abraham.
I descend, cross the saddle and walk
beneath the orange cliffs.
The air is pure, the wind crisp,
the song of the Flinders clear.
Soon the Evening Star will add its harmony
and later the stars will join in chorus.
The great amphitheatre and its circle of low cliffs
mock pettiness, ambition, vaingloriousness,
but I, a speck in time moving through changelessness,
lift up my eyes to those low cliffs and the towering sky
and hear not defeat or transience or folly
but intimations of the grand timelessness of eternity.
First published in The Second Genesis. An Anthology of Contemporary World Poetry.
© 2017 Neil Creighton
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