Here is a poem I wrote over the last year, prompted by a walk along one of the most popular walks in Melbourne, the thousand steps walk in Ferntree Gully National park. This national park was one of the first in Australia and dates from the nineteenth century. The thousand steps walk is popular as a fitness challenge, and to prepare people for walking on overseas travels. It features along its way markers of the Kokoda Track, and so serves as a kind of walking meditation on sacrifice in war.

One Thousand Steps

Moss covered log

Lichen robed manna moist

You fell here too

At some unstressed time

About half way up to one tree hill

Beyond the battles inscribed in this journey

Near the pass and the crossing, nameless now,

The end still one thousand breaths away

Still but never in silence

The log allowed the moss to grow

To make evergreen ears in the thousands

And here to attend to the forest fall

Near vertical lines screen all

But glimpses of the strangers’ city

In this percussive forest of symbols

And to my eyes so is all I see

Notwithstanding the city ken

Cockatoos white and black

Scream their way to Walhalla

An engine whines its solitary death

And the lyre parodies the rancour

Of sports militias training up and down

In their industrial silks

Barely forgiving the mindful walkers

But alone on this wryly named hill

With its scraped bald pate

Two workmen lunch in silent high-vis vests

And two walkers stop for rest

And learn to listen

 

Jeff Rich

 

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