Rachael Mead is a novelist and award-winning poet and short story writer, with her creative work appearing widely in Australia and internationally. She’s the author of the novel The Application of Pressure (Affirm Press 2020) and four collections of poetry including The Flaw in the Pattern (UWAP 2018). In 2019, she spent a month in the Taleggio Valley in Northern Italy on an eco-poetry residency awarded by Australian Poetry.
It takes a mountain to raise a cheese
A golden shovel of Terrance Hayes’ ‘Lighthead’s Guide to the Galaxy’
You want answers, so immediately I’m in a panicked state.
What is a regenerative economy, anyway? I’m a writer. My time
is spent exploring on foot, trying to see things differently to others
like the way the piode is a jigsaw from below but from above is a roof.
That’s a bit simplistic. Trying to give you answers is making me careless,
the way I get back to the room, pull off my boots and sling my bra
not even looking to see where it falls. Some think nature is all about sex
but I’m leaning in another direction. I’m missing the moonlight.
All this walking has me in bed with the sun, weighing the valley’s life
and trying to piece it together with words. You want me to show my thinking
but resisting the seduction of witness and metaphor is not easy to overcome.
It’s as if you’ve offered the finest single malt whiskey but refused me the ice.
I’m trying to be critical and speculative but I’m just grinding out the syllables,
constructing poems from form, allusion and a well-thumbed catalogue of words.
I’m great at questions, seeing how problems connect, replicate themselves —
but critical speculation? I’m a dog yapping at unseen dangers. I can’t say
what should happen here, the possibilities clamouring so I can’t tell prank calls
from those with something important to say. The word on the street
is it’s better to ignore what you see. Go with what you perceive.
My bedroom window is black with possibility. This arrangement
feels impossible. What can I offer? I walk. I watch. I make poetry.
If only I was more original, walking around like a pregnant woman
confident in the form of her creation, her offspring welcome among us.
I’m not used to being so beyond my depth. As a wife
I can fake it, clean the house before guests arrive. (Don’t think about that.)
But here, all the surfaces are peeled away, lack of faith in myself
laid bare in these echoing lines. I scratch pen on pages to start fires.
The answers are needed, the world staring down its own destruction
and here I sit twiddling around with rhythm and the fall of a word.
Beyond my window, the darkness resolves into birdsong and branches.
Grass will grow. Cheese will be eaten. These futures are not empty yet.
But I’m not so deaf that I can’t hear this valley whimper.
It’s just that I’ve no particular claim to wisdom –
only the ability to watch, witness and fill with the pities
of someone gifted in seeing backwards. It’s a leash,
the tug of it jerking my head as I peer into the night’s
potential – ghostly, nebulous and keeping me from sleep.