Recounting things overheard
in the unfamiliar places of childhood,
I never heard mentioned the radiation
of granites. I learnt that later, perched
over granites breaking down, over rising
boulders. Airing the house, conscious
of the build-up. What builds upwards
in closed spaces, cossetted zones of books
and quietness. All that documentation,
all those records, that archival evidence.
And the first hand, the building levels,
giving a good dose, or radon variable.
Officially, we are told to worry less
and less…natural background arguments,
ionising radiation a settler truism
levelled out with each building project,
each dowsing of location; other discourses
over-riding who’s telling us what they know
in differing ways… as I gather granite
exfoliations to montage into cairns
that mark nothing, though might counter
or encourage erosion. These rearrangements
of conditions we live under, create,
deny, foster and debate.
John Kinsella’s most recent volumes of poetry include Drowning in Wheat: Selected Poems 1980-2015 (Picador, 2016), Insomnia (WW Norton, 2020), and Brimstone: Villanelles (Arc, 2020). The first volume of his collected poems, The Ascension of Sheep (UWAP, 2022), has just appeared in Australia. He is a Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge University, and Emeritus Professor of Literature and Environment at Curtin University, Western Australia.