Dransfield: Two poems by John Tranter

Two Poems for Michael Dransfield

Two-Lane Blacktop

– in memoriam Michael Dransfield

You’re feeling too relaxed — it’s not easy to keep alert and focussed on the centre line. You’re driving south along the Monaro Highway in a large old car, through what’s left of autumn. It’s the High Country here, where you were born. From among the dry grass brotherhoods of giant boulders turn and stare at you. Look — there’s someone standing beside the road, holding out his thumb — he has a bag slung across his shoulder — was that a guitar? A flash of sunlight from the windscreen, and he’s gone. That look on his face — a mixture of eagerness and arrogance, puppy and lone wolf — he thinks it’s still the sixties. When the exhaust has died away it grows very quiet, and for a moment the present geographical location with its flora — Australian and introduced — and its man-made structures — road, low bridge, embankment, fence — can be seen as a ‘landscape’, e.g. ‘a breeze discusses itself among a willow’s yellow fronds.’

Briefly, the sound of his boots on the gravel, and the wind whistling faintly among the guy-wires of the complicated machinery in his head, the classrooms of the distant future hushed and listening, the Country Roads Board drafting plans to re-grade the camber at the bridge approaches, the rippling noise off-camera chilled water rinsing the culvert winter drifting down from the hills a purple-grey tint at the edge of the sky under the low ceiling of cloud the air as clean as a freshly washed glass and perfectly empty.

A Photograph of Michael Dransfield’s Flat, 1992

– for Alison and Hilary Burns

The attic where he lived is still there,
perched over a garage in the shade of a tree.
His voice, according to the scientists, is radiating
out past the galaxies, explaining how he reinvented
himself, how he essayed a fresh myth every evening,
under those stars that stared down and
calculated his brief ascension and decline.

There’s an afternoon glow to the photograph,
a hint of rain in the air. Patches of shade
and light appear by chance. And
Michael’s not there at all: he’s joined his words
on their lonely journey, sleeping on the wing,
in the cold and the dark, lit by that faint flame
we can see flickering across the surface of his project,
as we watch his voice turning into print.

The shadows tell us it was mid-afternoon:
there’s time for a beer or two at the local,
chatter and gossip by the fireside, then
we’ll give Patrick a lift to Taylor Square,
the street lights blinking on, one by one,
and on the way home we’ll pick up something
to prepare for dinner — Wish you could join us,
Michael: Good night.