Horizon Hill

Dust devils pirouette across the track.
Water purifiers hang uselessly from Will’s belt.
Cows search the crumbling lake floor
for drinkable pools.
Foxes gorge themselves on rotting fish.
Overhead,
a conspiracy of ravens harass wedge tailed eagles.
Two days of water hug Will’s torso.
He sips sparingly.

Shadows lengthen.
On Horizon Hill,
an inland lighthouse towers over ironbarks.
Its sandstone exoskeleton
is immune to the ravages of forest fires.
Underground it’s shaped like a bottle.

Will peers through his telephoto lens.
The lantern room is ready to illuminate the canyon.
Will follows the ridgeline
to the subterranean entrance.
The Autumn coolness within
is as soothing as silk sheets.
Will saturates his sun mask
with a splash from an underground stream.
A cap torch lights his climb to the cellar.

In the cavernous temple above,
serpentine flute songs
wrap themselves around serene dancers.
A wild xylophone solo
is accompanied by the scent of innumerable orchards.
Voices bounce from ceiling to stairs
like crazed rubber balls.
The words “I knew you’d come,”
intermingle with the riotous laughter of kookaburras.
The president of the Obscure Poet’s Club
appears to float into the cellar,
upon a fog tinged cushion of dazzling light.

Upstairs, in the cupped marble hands
of Graham H Goalposts Smith,
a rosewood lectern awaits the lone traveller.
Will climbs the ladder
inside that towering psychedelic Buddha.
Haikus, limericks and sonnets
drift from Graham’s lofty grasp.
The words hang in the air
long after the poet’s lips have ceased moving.

“LSD is superfluous here”
says the sulphur crested cockatoo
frolicking on the piano keys below.
After witnessing the statue’s eyes move,
Will isn’t so sure.

Outside, it’s forty in the shade.
A procession of profusely sweating dwarves
lug their sedan chair lounging court jester
past skeletons of drought massacred fish.
A dust storm obscures the remnants of the lake.

Inside, the celebration of the bizarre intensifies.
Bar staff masquerade as bunyips and Banksia men.
“Orthodoxy is anathema”
the ivory tinkling cockatoo yells
at a man in a Hawaiian tuxedo,
with tadpoles swimming
in his transparent platform soles.
“I know mate” he replies.

2 thoughts on “Horizon Hill

  1. Horizon Hill is really two poems in one – about drought and then possibly an LSD trip – and I didn’t think they sat together. I loved “dust devils pirouette”, “conspiracy of ravens”. I was really in the drought thing. Then I got thrown by “office tower sized bottle” and the reference to Pheidippides. I had to stop and puzzle over these things before going on. Instead of calling the character “Will”, which raises the question of who’s Will, would his occupation better ground the poem? I started off thinking he was working on the dingo fence and then thought he was a wildlife photographer.

    1. I don’t think there is anything wrong with Will’s destination contrasting so sharply with the landscape. The initial journey is to set the scene and the reader is meant to be extremely surprised by what ultimately happens. Although I could have written separate poems about the landscape and the destination, I disagree with the view that I have written two poems in one. It’s not like Will is in a completely different place out of the blue. The description of his destination is integrated with references to the landscape until long after he arrives.

      At the destination Will meets the President of the Obscure Poets Club. In the building where he meets him there is a lectern awaiting him, in the hands of a statue. He climbs that statue. To me that alludes to the fact he is making his way to the lectern to read a poem, in the Obscure Poet’s Club. In hindsight I can see how that could be unclear to the reader though, so I’ll directly refer to the reading of poetry.

      The fact it’s an entirely real experience is revealed by the cockatoo, who says “LSD is superfluous here.” What about the President of the Obscure Poet’s Club floating on air, you might wonder? It merely says he “appears” to float so it’s probably a magicians trick.

      Regarding the Pheidippides reference, poetry isn’t necessarily meant to be entirely self explanatory. This reference probably wouldn’t be mysterious to those who are familiar with the fact that Pheidippides is an ancient Greek messenger who inspired the modern marathon. He’d an iconic symbol of endurance who died immediately after his final run, therefore the reference is very fitting. Those who haven’t heard of Pheidippides can Google him.

      The natural setting and the isolation are intended to enhance the mystical flavour of the poem. Urban settings tend to carry connotations of rigid rationality. The existence of a lighthouse so far from any major body of water obviously defies common sense but when you’re writing surreal poetry that’s the idea. It’s reason for being there isn’t apparent but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s just a random bizarre object. The above ground part of the building could be a lighthouse for the sake of making it impossible to miss. It could also be symbolic of guidance. The bottle shape of the overall structure could be alluding to the water source beneath it.

      Your comment has triggered new ideas well beyond the clarifying details I added. The story is more developed now.

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