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Three Poems by Rohan Buettel
Fruit Bats, Thresholds, and Making Time for the Ocean
Flying foxes invade the city,
make their homes in botanic gardens,
in trees in parks, on river banks.
During the day they sleep, tightly
rolled cigars hanging from racks,
little fur stoles wrapped in raincoats,
tiny heads tucked beneath their wings.
It’s a shock to suddenly see them
silent overhead, fears of lyssavirus
leap to mind and you quickly flee.
Come twilight and they start to stir,
a restlessness spreads across the camp
and they strike tents, singly then in twos
and threes, shake their groundsheets
and in jerky upward jumps take flight.
They search suburban backyards
for paw-paws, custard apples and other fruit
human habitat provides. A delight
to see them stark in the evening sky,
but a pity too, the homeless gather
in the city when their rural roosts
have been destroyed.
Every threshold marks a boundary;
I dare not enter unless invited,
or entitled. The unfamiliar doorway
asks the question “What lies within —
another nondescript office floor,
a room of entertainment, or wonders,
or a place of hidden hazards?”
Janus looks both ways, outside and in,
past and present, watching the transitions.
His passages always open for war.
His gates closed in times of peace
to keep the wars within.
His name invoked at all beginnings:
journeys, enterprises, activities,
whether sacred or profane and before
any other god to be placated.
Worship him at planting time, harvest,
birth, marriage, death. He is the father,
presence ubiquitous and fragmented.
He brings the beginning, is there at the end.
Morning belongs to him, doorway to the day,
the start of business. His symbols: the keys
and the staff, keys for doors and gates
and the staff for the roadway.
Just as the bride, on arrival, oils the doorposts
of her new home with wolf fat,
pray to Cardea, goddess of hinges, to protect
and purify your jambs. Pray too to Limentinus,
protecting the threshold and cross it first
with the right foot. And do not forget Forculus,
who protects your doors.
Making Time for the Ocean
(after the collage by Ana Prundaru)
Behind the white picket fence,
a stencilled newspaper cutout,
sombre figures walk late-
nineteenth century streets
in dark clothes of mourning,
as if not yet over a war.
Their heads are breaking waves,
blown out by winter winds,
thoughts caught by the undercurrents
of the times, to be dragged by rips,
borne up by surf and dashed
on rocky headlands of depression.
The wan sun warms no-one
and the hard sea ebbs and swells,
brings the cleansing of a bracing cold.
About the author: Rohan Buettel lives in Canberra, Australia. His haiku appear in various Australian and international journals (including Presence, Cattails and The Heron’s Nest). His longer poetry appears in more than forty journals, including The Goodlife Review, Rappahannock Review, Penumbra Literary and Art Journal, Passengers Journal, Reed Magazine, Meniscus and Quadrant.