• Sarah Holland-Batt


               Our beauties are not ours.
                                                 —Ben Jonson


A white bird floats out like a handkerchief
between the dark trees.
I follow it through needles of sunlight,
barefoot, the coarse wallaby grass
splintering sharp and dry
under my feet, the white corseted world
disappearing like a mirage
through brush. The bird calls, I catch
scraps of its screech like peels
of bark rustling between leaves,
I feel the silence itch over me
and the swamp gums
and silver banksia crowd my head.
And what if this path I climb
were never to exist, and what if these gullies
cradled stones here forever
that never plummet,
what if the ferns crept along my shins
and I felt their rough undersides
whispering there like poisonous silk,
and the bird circling in my head
fled and led me nowhere. I inch
along the cliff, I let a strip
of white linen loose in the wind
to ride out over the grey leaves,
and it drifts and drifts.
The bird wheels and turns, so white—
I want to call down to wake them
but I cannot see the clearing.
If you can move, move,
and if you can run, run,
the dark flowers are breaking
over my head,this is the end
that was always waiting here—
we will turn to ash, we will disappear.