John Kinsella

Western Spinebill Sighting and the Absence of Tim
June 21, 2019 Kinsella John

Western Spinebill Sighting and the Absence of Tim
 
Tim is at a Goethe Society lesson
held near the Indian Ocean — he will
be conjugating and declining and — I know —
thinking of birds. He will feel excluded
 
when I tell him that I saw a western spinebill
at one of his favourite places on earth — Reabold Hill.
Had he been there he would have observed it closely,
listened carefully, and recorded all details in his bird book.
 
The spinebill would have been ‘protected’ inside a poem.
But in his absence I will meet the responsibility —
here it is, the bird, with agency intact, of itself.
As the sun set — and you can never see too many
 
suns setting into an ocean — a light shower
of rain fell and the elderly banksia candles
guttered. And the curved beak of the spinebill
portended the weather — longer days, but cold
 
and out of synch till they turn viciously hot. It knows,
Tim, as you know. How can we reset, recalibrate? How
can we ignore the restraints of that all-too-convenient
‘pathetic fallacy’ construct? And thus it flew again
 
into another, crumbling banksia, a banksia held together
only by half-light, then suddenly melting into night,
taking the spinebill with it into a deceptive peace,
adding more truth to a pataphysics than it warrants?

John Kinsella’s poetry volume Insomnia is forthcoming from WW Norton in the US in 2020. His collection of poetry, Firebreaks (W. W. Norton) was published in 2016. He is a Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge University, and Professor of Literature and Sustainability at Curtin University.