On the fifth of June a poster named George left a note in the comments section at Whispering Gums, saying that he couldn't think of "poetry involving rocks," and it hit me as I read this that John Kinsella's Divine Comedy had very few rocks in it. "Which is strange," I thought, "because Kinsella is writing about a small area of country Western Australia, and there is a mountain nearby, which he mentions, (it is "the tallest hill/mountain in the wheatbelt -- Walwalinj, or Mount Bakewell") and yet I can't remember him writing about the rocks."
I went and checked. He discusses the mountain as a whole mass, and he mentions "granite" in a number of places as a casual feature of the backdrop, and at least once he turns the granite into a liberated rock, and invents a "boulder of granite" --
then, without opening their beaks,
ventriloquised, a jam tree speaking
and then a boulder of granite,
I couldn't separate the voices
-- and then there are some stones, "rose quartz chunks," but he doesn't concentrate on rocks, on any rock, in the way that he concentrates on animals and plants, on living creatures, on mushrooms in Sub-Paradiso: Mushrooms, or on a white-faced heron in Canto of the Uncanny, or on snakes in the Canto of Serpents and Theft. "You lift snakes from roads -- / before compression -- drivers / swerving 'to take them out'" he writes, and H. in Arizona did this too, she swerved her car to hit snakes. "Is that a snake?" she would wonder, and it was only a poor black stick lying patient by the side of the road in the twilight; and when I was in Thailand I met a university professor who told us that he did the same with his car for dogs, though Arizona snakes are probably in better physical and mental shape than Thailand's stray dogs, with their ribs like cage bars containing the heart in a basket, their sores like trapped lava bubbles, the skin running in concave descents off the spine, and the ears and legs that aren't there, limbs in absentia and the senses diminished, sight stripped to half with the loss of an eye, and there is such a mass of these dogs in that country, such a mob of these damned-looking creatures, Pestilence and Plague, War and Rape (you can see this as you are sitting outdoors at a restaurant, two of them under the table next to you), trotting in herds at night behind you, so that you look back, or not you but I, I looked back, as I was walking along a road in the warm early night after the evening thunderstorm which used to arrive regularly at six o'clock, and there were the discs of the eyes, marking time about two feet off the road, a line of them, so quietly, a fleet of horrors and ghost-lights -- and in a fantasy I see their missing legs vanished into the same hinterworld as John Kinsella's rocks, present once but now gone, gone, and never thought about by anyone again, as if the dogs had never had legs, and the countryside by a mountain had never had rocks.
Teejay in the comments section points out the existence of James McAuley's poem, Granite Boulder.
And Freddy (also in the comments) posts a Kinsella poem called Negation of Granite.