Wind, poems by Nandi Chinna
Dr Nandi Chinna a research consultant and poet based in Perth, Western Australia. Her professional and artistic interests include Ecological Humanities, Biophilia, Intangible Cultural Heritage, and the connections and interstices between non-human and human communities. Her poetry publications include: Swamp; walking the wetlands of the Swan Coastal Plain (Fremantle Press, 2014); Alluvium, (Art text project with illustrator Andrea Smith, Lethologica Press, 2012); How to Measure Land, (Picaro Press, Byron Bay Writers Festival, 2010); and Our Only Guide is Our Homesickness (Five Islands Press, 2007). In 2016 she was Writer in Residence at King’s Park and Botanical Gardens in Perth, Western Australia She won the Tom Collins Poetry prize in 2014, and the Fremantle History Award in 2016. She facilitates regular writing labs on ‘poepatetics’ – the art of walking and writing. Her poetry collection An Older Country is forthcoming form Fremantel Press in 2019.
When you undressed last night,
nuts and bolts spilled from your pockets
twirling like spinning tops across the floorboards
into the corners off the room.
You said that the hardware store
had run out of spanners of a particular size,
as every day the fencers came
to repair the nights damage,
and every night the ghosts
of banksia and quenda, dressed
in the shadows of moon and cloud,
unmake the wire that keeps people out
and bulldozers in.
In the morning we all agree
that the wind was very strong last night
suddenly blowing a howling tempest;
strong enough to knock down fences,
gentle enough to leave trees standing.
After boarding the ferry I close my eyes,
feel the swell surging in sympathy
with the blood pumping through my heart muscle;
hold the island in those chambers;
hold the sea wind on the south-west bluff;
the osprey circling, diving, returning
with a pearly slash of salmon.
On the ferry’s TV, the West Coast Eagles are slaughtering
the Greater Western Sydney Giants,
and I’m repeating names like mantras;
Scavoleae crassifolia, westringia, spinifex, Lepidosperma gladiatum,
Seaberry, saltbush, samphires, sedges, Rottnest pines;
picturing the welcome swallows
careening above coastal rosemary,
ancient coral reefs split open on the shore,
and the eyes wide gaze across to the blur
of harbour and commerce that is Fremantle.
As the ferry speeds towards the mainland
the island grows huge inside me;
as seen from above;
a leafy sea dragon
adrift in the Indian Ocean.
So this is it:
60 or so of us standing in the road.
The riot squad are yelling MOVE, MOVE
but my feet have become stones cemented into the tarmac.
Someone grabs my hand and the police horse
staggers into my shoulder,
her sweat and fear smell like my own,
pulse galloping around the field of my body
charging and kicking at fences.
When the drilling rig enters the wetlands
surrounded by officers with tasers and guns, is
the horse’s legs and chest push
into my spine causing me
to trip, stand, fall, stumble,
the swamp clicks and sighs;
the Siberian birds wade into the centre,
their beaks piercing the lake’s membrane,
their law trembling in the mud.
At the Office of the Environmental Protection Authority
Where we stood to throw our heads back to the sky,
dark blue lines run into the ground,
ancient water rises, percolates and subsides.
On a map of the future,
the pages are left intentionally blank.
A tannin stain spreads across the assessments, appendices, the review;
the ngoolark arrives to alight upon nothing.
The table we are invited to bows under piles of reports.
Inside the pages, swamp harriers scope
and plunge into reed beds;
quenda’s snuffle amongst sheoak tendrils;
bansksia cones bloom and shrivel,
as we turn the pages and watch
tiny specks turn into pelicans
spinning in their gyres, gliding in
to land like sea planes upon the lake.
We stand with our feet in the mud
as the scrub roller bites into the littoral zone
breaking our carapaces open.
© Nandi Chinna