Poetry International Poetry International
Poem

John Kinsella

Pillars of Salt

Pillars of Salt

Pillars of Salt

We always look back,
attracted by that feeling
of having been there before – the roads
sinking, the soil weeping (scab on scab
lifted), fences sunk to gullies
catching the garbage of paddocks,
strainers blocked by stubble
and machinery and the rungs
of collapsed rainwater tanks / and maybe
the chimney and fireplace
of a corroded farmhouse, once
the guts of the storm, now
a salty trinket.

The salt is a frozen waste
in a place too hot for its own good,
it is the burnt-out core of earth’s eye,
the excess of white blood cells.
The ball-and-chain rides lushly
over its polishing surface, even dead wood
whittles itself out of the picture.

Salt crunches like sugar-glass, the sheets
lifting on the soles of shoes (thongs scatter
pieces beyond the hope of repair) – finches
and flies quibble on the thick fingers
of salt bushes, a dugite spits
blood into the brine.

An airforce trainer jet appears,
the mantis pilot – dark eyed and wire
jawed – sets sight on the white wastes
for a strafing run: diving, pulling out
abruptly, refusing to consummate.
                        Salt
explodes silently, with the animation
of an inorganic life, a sheep’s skull no more
than its signature, refugees already
climbing towards the sun
on pillars of salt.
Close

Pillars of Salt

We always look back,
attracted by that feeling
of having been there before – the roads
sinking, the soil weeping (scab on scab
lifted), fences sunk to gullies
catching the garbage of paddocks,
strainers blocked by stubble
and machinery and the rungs
of collapsed rainwater tanks / and maybe
the chimney and fireplace
of a corroded farmhouse, once
the guts of the storm, now
a salty trinket.

The salt is a frozen waste
in a place too hot for its own good,
it is the burnt-out core of earth’s eye,
the excess of white blood cells.
The ball-and-chain rides lushly
over its polishing surface, even dead wood
whittles itself out of the picture.

Salt crunches like sugar-glass, the sheets
lifting on the soles of shoes (thongs scatter
pieces beyond the hope of repair) – finches
and flies quibble on the thick fingers
of salt bushes, a dugite spits
blood into the brine.

An airforce trainer jet appears,
the mantis pilot – dark eyed and wire
jawed – sets sight on the white wastes
for a strafing run: diving, pulling out
abruptly, refusing to consummate.
                        Salt
explodes silently, with the animation
of an inorganic life, a sheep’s skull no more
than its signature, refugees already
climbing towards the sun
on pillars of salt.

Pillars of Salt

Sponsors
Gemeente Rotterdam
Nederlands Letterenfonds
Stichting Van Beuningen Peterich-fonds
Ludo Pieters Gastschrijver Fonds
Hendrik Muller fonds
Lira fonds
Partners
LantarenVenster – Verhalenhuis Belvédère