Tonight I must go to some tropical place.
While I’m sleeping in that country’s dry season,
I want a moth to dust my dreams,
to settle on my cheek and dip,
delicately, into this deep
well of sadness.
In tropical places, New Scientist assures me,
moths do this. Walking on stilts over a continent
of sleeping grief, they titillate the tearducts
and suck, greedily, this soup.
What does it matter
who has fallen in? To the moths
all emotions swill, expediently, into food.
To Thailand, New Guinea — or perhaps
the far north of Queensland where I lived once,
I must go. Too late the tropics claim me.
I am displaced. With my fuzzy-wuzzy hair
and my lizard love of sun,
I live light-skinned in the cold —
while cyclones whirl me back to child years
of rubber vines and crocodiles, mangoes
and pythons. North of an imaginary tropical line,
in me every new year floods.
So now like the bottomless crater in the rainforest
where, long ago Aborigines were thrown,
this well is deep and full.
Tonight then, let a greedy moth come.
With its present of pain let it wander
in that darkness I cannot reach. Let it scavenge
this swell, this murmur of mourning
where I sink. Lost in sleep I shall be
not weeping, but waiting
for a sea-sheen in the jungle,
a ripple not of reptiles but of sunlight,
a tattoo of hope over each eyelid
and when I wake, a farewell salute
of wings through a whirlwind
of salt, mapping my continent’s edge.
(from The Satin Bowerbird 1998)