Jane Frank – The Mountain

Frank LE P&W 3 Nov-Dec 2023

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14th Anniversary Edition, Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Volume Three Nov-Dec 2023.

The Mountain, poems by Jane Frank.

The Mountain

When I last drove north
the pine grove triangle
that caught dawn light
in the waves of its branches
like an ocean washing the foothills
had been felled
and the mountain
stood defiant, looming in the gap,
almost speaking to me
in arrowed gestures of hoop and kauri
of absence and neglect,
then softening in sun,
shading the road
with an amber-shot understanding.
I’ve often thought you might survey
the lilac expanse of creeks,
scrub and sea
to the south and east,
the cattle country to the west
from its Bactrian peaks—
after all, you memorialised
every other angle in paint.
North of here the grasses turn brown,
skies blazing indigo,
mirrored, immense,
the mountain marking a border
in space and time:
a bookend, a giant green sentinel
lion guarding the places
the river’s ink loops between,
embellishes, remembers.

Watching hang gliders with
Leonardo da Vinci
at Tamborine Mountain

We look for solutions in the sky—
a relentless quest—

From here on the still-
warm western escarpment grass
the valley is a salad
of farms and small settlements
under Renaissance clouds

Thresholds are closer here:
figuration/abstraction: cloud cover/rain
and there are wounds in the air—
a lack of answers from beyond
an invisible wall

As the next glider
waits for the windsock
I study Leonardo’s face—
weather-worn but with bird-keen eyes
that see angles and angels,
that are portals to batwing dreams
and electric-blue-thermal days

He is difficult to read
but we talk about progress, the way
his wing-seeds took life and sprouted
despite the earth-locked severity of his time,
ideas that dipped and rose
over centuries

He tells me things—
the function of feathers and their intricate designs,
the action of a falcon’s tail,
the way a sparrow moves, steers, dives
ascends in flight
and the way an eagle’s vision
multiplies colour by five

Sometimes I see in ultraviolet too, I tell him,
an infrared riot of colours,
make sense of things using wave-
lengths and I ask him if thinking
is a kind of flying,
like riding a bike through air
free of sepia burdens before they’re mirror-written
in a lasting codex?

Whether painting is a way of dreaming when awake?

I offer him figs and wine
while he recounts a story
about the Duke of Milan’s payment
of a vineyard for The Last Supper
back in 1498—
but this makes him sad because the place is a museum now
and the wine, he says, has lost its softness—

the world has lost its softness—

I may not see him again

It is his turn to soar from the luscious green ridge
and he is sliding gloves over those expressive
ink-stained hands,
reading my mind

He reminds me not to forget the relationship between
the forces that pull down
and lifting pressure on a bird’s wing
that the air is fluid and so am I
that the light is thickening to dusk and autumn is visible
because trees are reddening

and there is a deep fuchsia-clarity towards the horizon
which is an empty line demanding words

Dry, Fine Days

Tonight, I won’t care if I’m not forgiven
but wonder if the creekside cicadas have paused
to sleep or if the wallabies that watched us
from the bridge are lonely under an absent moon.
The tin roof creaks with a kind of weariness
but I noticed flame trees and red gums in flower
along the ridgelines before the day was stolen

Tonight, I won’t care if tomorrow is better,
won’t knit mountain air into worry or ride
the rapids of misunderstanding. The tiles are cold
against my feet, the boards honey-cream.
There are only elements here—no ghosts—
but I can hear stars singing, very softy,
whole choirs of them crooning in harmony

Tonight, I won’t care if my good intentions
are smudges on the walls of you. The scent of cut
grass still lingers, and wood smoke, and rosella bushes
give their confession through the cabin window.
The hanging chair you sat in swings, drums bamboo.
This night holds the fragrance of 1000 dry, fine days
that have come before, some that even survived fire.

© Jane Frank

Jane Frank is a Brisbane-based poet, editor and academic, originally from Maryborough in the Wide Bay region of Queensland. Her debut collection Ghosts Struggle to Swim was published by Calanthe Press in May 2023, and she is the author of two previous chapbooks including Wide River (Calanthe Press, 2020). Her work has been widely published in journals and anthologies in both Australia and internationally including Antipodes; Westerly; Cordite; Meniscus; Shearsman; Other Terrain; Poetry Ireland Review; Live Encounters; Ink, Sweat and Tears; Takahe, The Ekphrastic Review; Australian Poetry Anthology; Newcastle Poetry Prize anthology; ACU Prize for Poetry anthology; Heroines; Grieve; The Incompleteness Book II and Poetry for the Planet (Litoria Press). She is currently reviews editor for StylusLit literary journal and teaches creative and professional writing. Read more of her work at https://www.facebook.com/JaneFrankPoet/

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