I Mai Wiyaringkupai
Finally when grandfather tried to fly
from Helvellyn they locked him up;
asylum from himself.
We visited all spring, and in the summer
he unfurled enough to ask for escape
into back issues of the National Geographic.
My sister and I, from waiting rooms and hotel lounges,
gathered into boxes all the dazzling world
and stacked them, bursting light,
from every cardboard seam, in the corner
of his cell. Visits now chafed our palms
on salty halyards, or saw us squinting
through a sextant at the stars. We crisscrossed
oceans with Columbus, Drake and Frobisher
pierced the mysteries of Galapagos, hacked
through rainforest, burned our soles on sand.
A late November day, frost rimed up
the chain-link fence. We trailed our finger tips
in the azure of a bay, as tenders from Discovery
carved civilization in prow marks on some
Antipodean beach. And now we think of him
as home. Antipode to his cage. Afternoons
with scissors and Blu-Tack cutting windows
in his walls:
Rectangles of tawny desert, then abruptly
green bush, eucalyptus cathedrals, spires
of fissured rock piercing the insane
magnolia of Surrey. An impossible horizon
spans two feet between the night bell
and the window grille. Above the washstand
opera pours from under tilted beaks. Bondi on a sea
of flesh and fabric. Across the clipboard drug chart
a double page spread: Uluru stains the order ochre
in the evening.
One morning, with the steel of January air
in their lungs, they followed chaos through a tangle
of twisted mesh and a supernova
of glass, to the potting shed. A missing
spade and mattock, a long coil of hemp.
Drag marks in the dew. They found him
six feet down, under a thousand years
of yew. Stripped to his boxers, brown Surrey
loam daubing his torso with Koalas,
with one hand seized on a can
of crumpled air, the other curled
in rope. Sightless and bright
as the south star, he abseils
for the sun.