Ivan Head: ‘Cockatoo Funeral’ and ‘Generous Days’

Cockatoo Funeral

After his funeral in Bunbury

and back at the house,

I went to clear the washing line

but heard his voice

from over the boundary fence:

a cheery “ow yuh goin’, eh?”


For a Lazarus moment

the neighbour’s caged cockatoo

had heard my steps

and, thinking it Dad, called out

in his nuanced turn of phrase—

their usual call sign “ow yuh goin’, eh?”


Despite this viva voce

from the realm of parrot

Dad was not there

and the parrot only seemed to

have a turn of phrase;

faux, parrot-fashion, on a tape.


Lazarus did not achieve fame

on a first century speaking circuit:

“Listen to the man who died

and then came back again

with tales from that far realm.”

There was no queue on Easter Day.


Mostly, we do not get these kindly gestures.

No message comes.

No one tweets: “Arrived safely.”

Life moves on.  McAuley said

“We cannot call the dead collect.”

The boundary wall has a silent ratchet gate

as the tumblers fall into place.

Ivan Head


Generous Days: Barraba New South Wales

Cane sewing baskets are inherited,
not thrown out or E-bayed.
She has her mother’s, her aunt’s,
and her father’s. He needed one

when he stayed in the Barraba house,
where needle and thread
would fix nets and wrap eyelets to rods:
and where we rarely went

even when the Murray Cod
were in the river, and he had taken
the long day’s drive to stay and fish—
after the economic rationalists had

ripped out the trainline from Tamworth,
leaving a bus or the car their only vision
of connectedness for slowly dying
country towns; towns where an Anzac pillar

stands on to mark year zero—
and demographic surveys
state the bleeding obvious
that the young drift annually to the coast

and do not come back. From the veranda
at Barraba I see the full moon shine above the hills.
The white-trunked gum trees gleam
and seem to dance, momentarily.

From the veranda at Barraba,
the full moon shines, as if no trees were ever cleared:
the open forest of white-trunked gum trees
immersed, gleaming, dancing

in the season of white blossom:
honey, free, sweet; the white mimesis
of clay flowers, the greater poesis, dancing
bodies daubed white amidst the dancing trees.

I imagine the uncut forest
then: in the season of dancing,
beneath the dancing moon,
of eucalyptus bloom,

of ochre-flower dreaming,
shining in the night hills at Barraba
glimpsed from the veranda
gum leaves gleaming, generous days.

Ivan Head

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