Monday, 18 April 2016

Peter Skrzynecki: Narwhal

Hedges of pack-ice
line the forest where it grazes
on thorns of cuttlefish.

Auroras of sheet-light
spray it with arrows
alongside paddocks of snow and moss.

Whistling and bellowing to itself,
it wanders through towers
of glaciers, trumpeting:
a herald to days without beginning or end.

Tapestries of lichen
growing black and green, are a scrollwork
it never ceases to weave
diving over palisades of light
to straits and channels of pasture.

Harpooned or shot,
a legend dies in the Middle Ages
unicorns vanish on matted floes
through squalls of mist that equators draw.

A scapegoat of reason
it roams in tribes
over Arctic shelves and ridges,
thrusting an ivory blade
at wings of sunlight that follow like a hawk.


From the collection Immigrant Chronicle (1975), based in the alienation of the young Skrzynecki migrating to Australia with his family after WWII. "Narwhal" is thus a puzzle in a collection that's otherwise about the migrant experience. Does the narwal's oneiric, legend-like existence have some relation to what the displaced migrant has lost, having moved to a land without "the Middle Ages"?