Mark Tredinnick


You know how this goes,


Right? The morning is the mirror the sky died in
   overnight, and the day is distracted by her
own sudden bright solitude. You’ve dropped
   the little ones at school and the day is

Yours and you know this is how contentment
   reads on paper. But you put coffee on
the stove and stand in the sun and feel the
   wind build its case against the way things seem.

And you know there’s another life out there you
   were meant to find; there was another face.
You’ve slipped into someone else’s quiet destiny
   and left your run for the beloved too late.

You know how this feels: like she’s gone and she’s
   never coming back. And you can hear the
afternoon banking in the languor of the morning
   and you can smell the milk boiling over

On the stove. There’s no one, it turns out,
   at the wheel. Caught half way between your mind
and your senses, there are moments of sheer
   plunge, and this is one, but, still, you save most

Of the milk and fix a half-decent latte. You carry
   it to the bedroom and sit with it a while, and
the light leans against you, one arm across your
   shoulders. She lies there sleeping on the white

Damask spread when you stand. And when you turn
   to see what turning up again and getting on
with it looks like in the mirror, at your time of life,
   there’s no one looking back at you at all.


But you know what this feels like. Maybe
   Vincent had it right: suffering exists
to remind us that we’re not made of wood.

   By midnight you’re convinced of it; you’ve spent

A day back inside the body of your work, and
   the second full moon of the first full
month of the year is smoking her last camel
   in the silence of the Saturday sky. You look

Up at her and remember the sacred kingfisher
   perched like a floodlight on the real estate
sign for the house by the river at noon. How like
   the painter’s that teal green roshi looked

At his Zazen in the brushtrokes of the summer
   rain, a subject flown from its frame. But now
the night sky is obsidian, and the constellations
   rehearse their lines. Cloud swarms the face

Of the moon. What matters, wrote Vincent,
   his heart bright with wheatfields,
his head dark with crows, is to learn to want
   to go on.
Sometimes I hang,

Like an infinite question, taut between heaven
   and here. And the moon, looking down
tonight to find her self in my anthracite window,
   sees only me looking back.



Mark Tredinnick’s most recent book is The Blue Plateau: A Landscape Memoir (UQP, 2009). His honours include the Newcastle and Blake Poetry Prizes. His first book of poems comes out this October. Find out more about him, his writing and teaching at

Tredinnick writes: “This poem came from the weather — physical and psychological — it describes. It sings the blues in serrated quatrains. Without a guitar, or for that matter, much of a voice.

It welled up from reading Vincent Van Gogh’s letters after looking and looking at his paintings, and those of some of his urbane and more level-headed contemporaries, in the post-impressionist show in Canberra.

Poetry speaks a language on the other side of hope. Van Gogh’s paintings, and his letters, speak it, too. That’s where this poem seemed to want to take me.

Something like the encounter with the empty mirror (at the end of the first part) happened to me when the poem was dreaming itself up, and I put it in the poem because it seemed to speak to the contingency of self, which is the poem’s theme, if it has one. But rereading my poem, that image reminds me of a haunting poem of Mark Strand’s, The Mirror, from Man and Camel, which I’d forgotten I’d read until I reread it the other day-one of Knopf’s April poem-a-day mailings. I didn’t mean to steal his mirror, and I hope that if Strand ever looks into my poem he won’t find himself looking back.

Mirroring runs through my poem, of course, start to finish. The beautiful unreliability of nearly everything; the fragility of meaning. Though it’s not a mirror image of the first part, you could read the second part of my poem as a falling into the mirror-back in time, down into Self, out into the world, which in the end looks back for itself in the poem and finds only the artist, failing again, perhaps failing better, looking back.

But I was thinking about none of that as I wrote. I was mostly trying not to fail the poem that seemed to want to come. All I had to work with was the title and the opening line, the form that insisted on itself, the weather, Vincent, my solitude, and the blues. Perhaps that, or something like it, is all there ever is.”