(After ‘Desert Poet’, a painting by Elaine d’Esterre)
What the sun sees the sun exposes,
uncertainties, marginal clarities,
eye and ear proficient
in fuddled myths of identity.
Cherished, battered, who can say
which word is guide or misfit?
Red grit tortures the eyelids, the wind
is flagellant. Distressed epiphanies
haunting the cities have echoes here
Lake Mungo’s buried knowledge
mourning like a lost language
each dry whisper a voice
unknown. ‘Desert Poet’ as one
more sandeater, another thirst
parched by beauty. The pink
and purple dunes bed down
in her. Drift burial, mutation’s
palette. Disjunctions of self
haunt the canvas. Exploration’s
daughters belie a resting place.
(‘Desert Poet’ appeared in Space and Place: Elaine d’Esterre & Nicky Perkin, Surf Coast Shire Artspace, Anglesea, 2017.)
Patricia Sykes is a poet and librettist. Her collaborations with composer Liza Lim have been performed in Australia, the UK, Germany, Moscow, Paris and New York. She was Asialink writer in Residence, Malaysia 2006. Her most recent collection is Among the Gone of It (English/Chinese, Flying Island Books 2017). A song cycle based on her collection The Abbotsford Mysteries premiered in May 2019.