‘Fire relies on the leaves of gum trees’ and other poems by Dominique Hecq


Light pours down
the unrelenting sky
to earth ribbed and ridged
with the tough stroke
of Drysdale’s brush

I track down words
for hues and shades in books
envy the skill of artist-explorers
who forged new ways of seeing

The cries of crows fall

Through blues onto rusty ochres
pulsing with raven dust

This place stills my tongue


Somewhere in this night lives
a light
that turns in the open
throat of time.

When the sky waits for rain
birds squat in silence
and longing is but
one great sweeping movement that makes the earth quake.

The clock stands still in the heat, and I
fear the mimicry of clichés—
like a comma usurping all

No, I don’t believe
in the silence
drying up
on your lips.

I dream the wish that inhabits
you is a space
opening up a gap
into the night.

What I write gleams
like the moon
pulsing in a sea
of clouds.

Your lips are grey—a hyphen
between dis and ease
and the ultimate sinking
into silence.

Rain pours.
In my throat words come up for air
like a promise
to skin death alive.

2017 ‘Pulse’ at Double Dialogues 

Smell the rain on the breeze
down at the river mouth
where fishermen stand
in the swirl of incoming waters
Feel the first drops on your skin
where the mystery of the ocean
draws away from salt spray
and the chill of the west wind
Ribbons of kelp sway in the deep
Refracted light dapples your face
as the child comes up for air
Your hands, useless 
against the sky
Arms, broken wings
	skeleton dust
Osprey kestrel tern skua shearwater sandpiper swift

Fire relies on the leaves of gum trees 

No sound fits this spectacle     No sound
but the hiss of fire     bark     grass
searing your world into sheer whorls
of alliterations     Hallucinations
of words resounding with nothing

Following faultlines     a gorge aflame
furrows erased in granite and sandstone
                 lines of scribble gums forever 
receding     The gorge
     		     barring you

Now how could I speak again
when syllables shatter on my page
turning words inside out
when letters hover in the air 
like the smell of your burning skin?
We were discussing poetics
on our mobiles    How we didn’t need
manuals for wordsmiths
preferred to work words as an end
in itself     make a poem fulfilled

in its enaction     look inwards
to the materiality of language
on the page and in the mouth
stress the event     not the effect
          You said good bye

And now I dream that you flit
out of my skin     your voice 
lettering me     Poetic enjoyment
perhaps    as if to resist
the etiolation of language

Don’t put individual utterances on show
you say     Perform their moves
of repetition     re-use     reiteration
      show your reader the absurd
desire to contain (       )

For here is the gum and its inferno remains
the grave among blistered roots
the mouthless earth lulling one to leave

If it could speak      it would say
here is the silence          here is the question

The Hanged Man

At the time of writing to you
The sun sinks in Sydney Harbour 
Full moon swells above the bridge
Bizet’s Carmen bursts on the water
Valentines  clink glasses and part
	    clink glasses and part 

In Melbourne a southerly blows across the bay 
Spectral waves ripple, curl, frizz, fizzle 
Madame Sosostris sets The Lovers alight
Fireworks explode in the sky
Rainbows cover the face of the moon
      and rub out the stars

Ropes of rain drop on Esperance 
Pods of pilot whales shore up to die on Farewell Spit
Cascading waters rip into America’s tallest dam
Everywhere on earth lakes fill with fish doped on antidepressants
Margaret Atwood’s Year of the Flood II (non-fiction) is released

In Paris refugees huddle outside the Sacré Coeur where cleaners 
slip them Halal baguettes

In London a Tory student films himself torching a twenty pound note 
next to a homeless man 

In Grahamstown one thousand and seven hundred people catch AIDS

In Manhattan the Statue of Liberty squirms

At the time of writing
Maryam Mizakhani dons no Jihab but wins the Nobel for mathematics

At the time of writing
George Orwell’s Twenty Seventeen (non-fiction) crackles off the press

At the time of writing 
China stacks its artillery and extends its air strips
North Korea fires missiles into the Sea of Japan
Syria leaks chemical weapons
Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, India bury fresh bodies

At the time of writing
The planet tilts off its axis
Foaming clouds ignite 
Coal-fired power plants belch 
Robotic bees are born

At the time of writing 
I’m out to kill time 
Forget all possible endings to the world
Remember the boy who’d launch himself off into the river like Tarzan, 
rope dangling
        	    from the tree of immortality

At the time of writing
Death has achieved her majority
Madame Sosostris grants you eternity
I tuck away the Hanged Man’s card

Archive Fever Making Tracks

           the arkhē appears in the nude—Jacques Derrida
You are I am a tracker bent crouched close to the page ground looking
for traces and signs that sense you has have passed this way

You sniff sniffing for the scent of absence you
but above all feeling
for the gap in your my life 
that wants to fill this page

The air is incandescent

The white page track glows

Emptiness talks back talks back talks back
to the heat that cracks open the world ground

This is a land of surfeit and lack
of hardness and clarity of image
of absence that opens out
or closes up the world
and sometimes the heart

Derrida, J 1998 Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression. 
Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Trans Eric Prenowitz, p. 92.

 Pulse and other poems are © Dominique Hecq

The above poems have been published as follows,

2015 ‘Archive Fever’. Axon

2016 ‘Archive Fever’. Best Australian Poems. Melbourne: Blac Ink.

2017 ‘Archive Fever’. Recours au poème : 182 

2017 ‘Fire relies on the leaves of gum trees’. Recours au poème : 182 

2017 Pulse. Double Dialogues

2017 The Hanged Man. Meniscus 5 :1
2017 The Hanged Man. Best Australian Poems. Melbourne : Blac Ink.

Dominique Hecq grew up in the French-speaking part of Belgium. She now lives in Melbourne. Her works include a novel, three collections of short stories and six books of poetry. Her stories and poems have been published internationally. These appear in English and other languages in anthologies, journals and on websites. Over the years, her work has been awarded a variety of prizes. Hush: A Fugue (2017) is her latest book.