In a time of dreams, the rainbow mother
Led spirits to the casuarina trees.
Wind blew and the spirits sang
With needle voices, they danced
With story.

A Wanderer came from northern lands
Of epiphytes and mangrove swamps,
He rested by the river
Under casuarina columns.
But the voices, whistling, singing
Frustrated rest, drove him mad
With wakeful whispers –
By morning,
He burst beneath needles
Clutching his head
And ran, screaming
To the river
And drowned.

Now I walk those pillars,
The green corridor by the river,
This inside / out
Of open walls, arm-spread
Fenced and free.

In the place
Where form is uncertain,
Shade is lace; negative space
Transient, transfigured on breezes:
There grips the casuarina,
Spiny fingers conceding leaves in clasped hands.

The place of voices
Of she-oak churrings stirring whistles from
Susurrating buzzing shivers,
A soft purr in spiny mouths
That talk secrets, hushing whispers in the shade
Rasping squalls of burrs and sibilants
Urgent –
Stirring sluggish souls
To frenzy.
Go! They hiss, Go now!
There is no rest at our feet.

I come here to thread my voice
With that ancient Wanderer’s wail
That haunts the shore leaves.
And I come to be still by the lips of the river
Its tongues lapping roots,
Eternal discourse
Of fluid questions to gnarled answers
Rooted tight in solid earth
That the wind blows away
In erosion of millennia,

I take comfort
From their green feathers
Ask what they have to tell me, what relief,
I can take from these green breezes
What answers from their shurring sounds.
I strain to hear, listening, struggling to
To recognise their
I make up stories

Casuarinas smile their green teeth
Blow their voices through the spiny fidget
Pitch rising
As my body twitches like a bird
Restless as their windy needles,
And they say:

There was never rest here.
Run to your future – and do.

© C E Collins, 2022