All around our steel home’s broad bull-nosed verandah
we’d jack-hammered rock, dug garden beds and ponds,
fenced an oasis as we planned for shade, blossoms, wildlife and fruit.
Among the natives we’d cultivated
paw paws, frangipanis, mangos, bananas …. Security
lights drew tree frogs and geckos; a Greek chorus
of bellowed crawks and clicking chick chacks;
an agile profusion alternating with contentment and strife.
But that season, in the Build-up to the Wet,
it was the raucous rocket frogs’ ratchet-like croakings
we noticed most. Each night the males made our ponds
throb with their rapid yapping calls, withdrawing at sunrise
when grass finches postured on the lips of ponds,
flicking their tails and singing a series
of squeezed rasping notes; white-gaped honeyeaters
threaded a path through foliage and blossom
as Papuan cuckoo-shrikes tore paw paws and mangos.
Then one night at the Build-up’s end, as we drank
chardonnay on ice, Yanyula youths ran amok
on ganja, throwing stones and shiaking at our padlocked gates.
It only ended when [sorry name] leapt on our fence,
screaming at stars, before lightly climbing
a power pole like a cabbage tree palm—
an unabashed athleticism electrified
in the fall.
© Phillip Hall