Rachael Mead - The book offers us an embodied sense of secular ritual in its attentiveness and its use of form-lists, lyric iterations, admonitions-as the poet both argues and confides with herself and us, about the wild pleasures of earth's physical and emotional topographies, and of our responsibilities within all this

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Rachael Mead, The Flaw in the Pattern, UWAP Poetry, 2018.
Book extract


Highly Commended in the 2016 Dorothy Hewett Award for an Unpublished Manuscript****
"This is an alive, refreshing and, quite literally, elemental book of water and skin, muscle and fire. Rachael Mead's poems are immediate and grounded whilst entwined with fragility and struggle. They don't shy from the difficulties and sadness as well as joy in human kinship. Along the way Mead offers us a clear-eyed self-consciousness of the human within the larger places of the earth, in this case places such as Antarctica, Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre, Ikara-Flinders Ranges. The book offers us an embodied sense of secular ritual in its attentiveness and its use of form-lists, lyric iterations, admonitions-as the poet both argues and confides with herself and us, about the wild pleasures of earth's physical and emotional topographies, and of our responsibilities within all this. A powerful and invigorating book of journeys well worth taking."--Jill Jones




These clouds that cap the world
Overland Track, Tasmania – Day 1


We set out, climbing towards the tight lid of clouds,
our whole week hanging from our collarbones.
This land casts timelessness at our feet,
unfurling like an old rug, ragged and enormous.
We are superimposed here, stepping into an epic.
Trees glow in wet light, the sky flat as an ironed sheet.
Everything is so magnificent it feels ridiculous, like words
in the mouth of Dorothy Parker. This is beauty beyond
necessity, the way it usually is, but on its own terms,
the golden mean redundant and symmetry just a neat idea.


For seven days we will walk, each carrying our own burden
of what we think we need, our sweat and aching joints.
We tread the silvered vertebrae of the track
one foot after the other, learning the bleakness
of repetition. The sky drops on our heads,
fog enfolding us in silence and cold. Ahead,
I watch my partner’s shape dissolve then reappear
fiercer than ever, like love over time. I draw endurance
from my aquifer and keep pushing through this weather
that has nowhere better to be, striding among
these clouds that cap the world, my hair netting sky.
The light falls wildly over everything
and I can’t decide if we’re pilgrims or vagrants.
Newly attuned to the tension of my body’s wires,
shy tendons and muscles introduce themselves
and I’ve discovered a new species of thirst.
I walk weighted under a stranger’s BMI,
hips and knees moaning with compression.
So pilgrimage feels right, this desire to kneel,
to buckle under the weight of suburban sin
we’ve lugged with us into the silence.
But what is our sacrifice? The further we walk
the more the sweet machines of our bodies
rub away their rust and as our feet roll the earth
beneath them, the load eases on our minds
and the spaces between our bones.
We’re not asking for redemption. This is no
forty-day plan with a devil and a mountaintop.
This is pure desire for quiet pieces of the world,
to touch something ancient and leave
only wonder and the barest fingerprint.
What seemed necessary is eroding away.
Now, needing no more than all the curve
of our ribs can hold, we make camp,
vagrant pilgrims settled in our skins
as the dark falls wildly over everything.


In the quiet
To Lake Windermere, Overland Track – Day 2


The light falls wildly over everything
and I can’t decide if we’re pilgrims or vagrants.
Newly attuned to the tension of my body’s wires,
shy tendons and muscles introduce themselves
and I’ve discovered a new species of thirst.


I walk weighted under a stranger’s BMI,
hips and knees moaning with compression.
So pilgrimage feels right, this desire to kneel,
to buckle under the weight of suburban sin
we’ve lugged with us into the silence.


But what is our sacrifice? The further we walk
the more the sweet machines of our bodies
rub away their rust and as our feet roll the earth
beneath them, the load eases on our minds
and the spaces between our bones.


We’re not asking for redemption. This is no
forty-day plan with a devil and a mountaintop.
This is pure desire for quiet pieces of the world,
to touch something ancient and leave
only wonder and the barest fingerprint.


What seemed necessary is eroding away.
Now, needing no more than all the curve
of our ribs can hold, we make camp,
vagrant pilgrims settled in our skins
as the dark falls wildly over everything.



Simple riches
Eating dehydrated food on the Overland Track – Day 3


Some things are so true we struggle to find their words.
Silent and unassuming, they are the foods we consume unthinking;
the meat of proverbs, the grain in the flesh of the loaf,
the light crouched in each crystal of salt.


We have walked all day carrying the cargo of the present.
The beauty of this land burns down my house, leaving me
with necessity on my back, desire in ashes at my feet,
the past and future just luggage waiting at the end of the track.


Tonight, our meal is freeze-dried Nasi Goreng, a laboratory feast,
its ingredients a stir-fry of equations. At home this is unthinkable,
tasting of the chemistry of the kitchen, not the art. But here,
once the water has been poured and the bag is ripe and plump,
my taste buds flower, steam strokes my cheeks with lover’s breath.
We feast, then languid in the afterglow, we lick bowls and spoons
slick with the salty aftertaste of satisfaction.


For really, what do we need? The truth is simple as water
and radiant as fire. To understand that everything vital
is right here and no heavier than we can carry.
And to know, as the night falls like silt, we will be held,
that there will be wind in the trees, there will be stars.




The flaw in the pattern
13 thoughts on wilderness – Day 4


1. It is a word for something imaginary.
2. The deep blue bowl of sky, the microbial cities in the folds of my skin.
3. Web, palimpsest, machine – nothing can capture it. All we can say is what it is not.
4. Warping the laws of physics, time drifts with the continents and distance is measured by each species’ step.
5. It is not untouched by us, yet finds us irrelevant.
6. Here the leech and the midge are equal to the devil and quoll.
7. To avoid sentences tangled with economic value and square acreage, these quiet places should be defined through non-human eyes, distilling their meaning to one simple word: essential.
8. Stillness and death can be virtues.
9. It keeps telling us the same thing yet never repeats itself.
10.Memories are sketched with shadow, history scratched deep in the mountain’s bones.
11. Solitude is a state of mind. You can never be alone.
12. The only commandment is that all shall be connected.
13. This is the home of a new genus of silence, a place where travel is tectonic grind, weather is never trivial and the present is the flaw in the pattern.








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