As I was leaving, I turned to the rain and whispered—
River of the phantom, road of the sprite,
stream of the child, mountain of the women,
rock of the men and grave of the big man.
I knew each well but wished not to invoke them.
Instead, I beseeched the leap of the dog,
peak of the cow, twist of the paw,
curve of the plain and arm of the sea.
The rain cupped my words, so the wind could drink them.
Little river, little lake of battle,
small island, small mountain,
little corner and little throat.
Placename after placename scattering their soundseeds.
Hut of the whispering, nook of the sun,
home of the thief, ridge of two demons,
backside to the breeze and rock of the boat.
Sonant by sonant steeped with valediction.
Valley of cloud, place of puddles,
slieve of storm, sweet stream,
pasture of honey and well of milk.
Each farewell, each pluck of feather.
Moor of hens, lough of flocks,
crag of the hawk, top of the world,
height of crows and hill of ravens.
As I was leaving, I turned to the rain and whispered,
and the rain cupped my words, so the wind could drink them.
Note | Placenames cited are English translations of Irish towns and villages.
Old Healesville Road
This is where I come to exhale, at the road shoulder,
where the ranges stand, animal still. Where mountains
were named by white men, as if they didn’t already have
them. Tanglefoot. Little Joe. Slide. Jerusalem. What are
their Woiwurrung names? Why don’t I know them?
The stolen valley unfurls beneath me in all its pastoral
glory. I cannot look without thinking of trauma—
Australia’s and my own. And yet today, it feels like I’ve
wasted my life trying to find a softer place to land. You
recently wrote: ‘Home is not a physical place, but an inner
quality of acceptance’. These words, when I read them,
chimed like a Buddhist’s bell. All through the pandemic,
you’ve been sending me photos of Maugherow, as if you
were almost afraid I might forget what it looks like.
But Sligo has tilled an obstinate desire line deep within me.
I can close my eyes and conjure. Home was never a safe
place. Certainly not when I was young. I left my body
so it could fend for itself. Much later, you called me
the Keeper of Distance. We were still getting to know one
another then. I was on my knees. I was trying my best
to stand. But right now, at this road shoulder, rain is on
its way. The sky is making love to her clouds. I’m speaking
to Country, and I know it listens. The mountains,
the grasses, the trees, the winds, and the creatures listen.
I know each spirit listens. This communion is new to me.
I am very tender with it. Reverent. Somehow this feels
like healing. Even so, I joke that I’m only here until I win
the lotto. And I’ve been mentally renovating that small
cottage in Grange. Painting its walls and replacing
windows, putting down Moroccan rugs, and digging up
the garden. I’ve been doing this all week to help me
fall asleep. Belonging is never a snug fit.
Libby Hart is an Australian poet and author of Wild (shortlisted for the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards), This Floating World (shortlisted for the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards and The Age Book of the Year Awards), and Fresh News from the Arctic (winner of the Anne Elder Award). Her second home is Maugherow, in north Sligo.