Thinking over Helen Johnson’s Already Much Thought over “‘A Solipsistic Colonial Fantasy’ . . . Impotent Observer” and Unhitching Myself from Kant’s First Moment

Branches of a York gum tree intertangle against a blue sky
Photo: Casliber/Wikimedia Commons

We have been away from Jam Tree Gully –
now, reapproaching the name not on the gate.
Working the categories, the signs, we fear the raiders?
Fifteen minutes into being back I am yelled at

by a guy whose face is a white blur driving past fast
up near the top firebreak, at interstice with loop. I have re-
introduced myself as shape and form, as content
within the valley, and plunge down to gully

with a branch fallen to bridge a stormfront.
Judge 50mm of rain in the gauge as parody
of what’s to come, the Strine the drawl the lingua-
franca of fiery furnace. Sometimes the suits will travel

up from the concentrations to take the district in, lock, stock
and barrel – appraise land values, talk about trends.
We shut them out – the only time we use “survey
lines” to deny access. The living and dead usually

pass right through us as we try to claim nothing.
But suits (and casual wearers) would like to be in like Flynn,
re-setting the scene, emptying past judgements
into a new realty game. I am so fucking predictable – listening

out for familiar birds, caught up in strains of “28” chatter
rewriting linguistic roots. You’ve got to expect metonyms to think
land values will skyrocket if my sort are driven out. It bothers me,
camping on what I don’t partway comprehend —

I don’t claim the wagon wheels of occasional traffic
on these out-of-the-way roads, these short-circuits,
as kin. I don’t join into the rumpus room of economic
scheming, do I? My glasses track a yellow-rumped thornbill

from native York gum to introduced lucerne tree festooning
foliage. Somebody wants this to add up – the stock exchange
bottom line, the super funds dispersed between scant trees. Here,
and not seeing the scats of a rare marsupial on the gravel drive –

how can this be? Solipsistic and anti-noumenon as ever,
I stretch the canvas ahead of the wind lifting ahead
of the most brutal front of the year – but not like the canvases
that directed a breeze to a digging, fortune seeking, predicting.

Editorial note: Read Kinsella in conversation with Helen Johnson from this same issue.

Photo by Wendy Kinsella

John Kinsella’s most recent volumes of poetry include Drowning in Wheat: Selected Poems, 1980–2015 (Picador, 2016), Insomnia (W.W. Norton, 2020), and Brimstone: Villanelles (Arc, 2020). His new memoir is Displaced: A Rural Life (Transit Lounge, 2020). The fourth volume of a poetry collaboration with Kwame Dawes, In the Name of Our Families, appeared with Peepal Tree in 2020. He is a Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge University, and emeritus professor of literature and environment at Curtin University, Western Australia.