Tuesday Poem: “The buffalo grass turned purple” by Malcolm St Hill

The buffalo grass turned purple

The buffalo grass turned purple
and I’d almost thought
it wasn’t going to happen
this year.
But in the peak of winter
it always does.
And I wonder about
the number of cycles
I’m yet to see.

And each morning
(some time after this),
the unfurling of flags.
New leaves on the sticks
of Chinese Tallow trees
revealing their increments of green.
Marking another season and
the slow march
of the inevitable.

There’s a mechanical certainty to the seasons
like the swinging of a pendulum
pumping out
the phases of the moon.
I’ve missed the slow extrusion
of my fish-scale fingernails.
They feel too long
and I clip them.
The white arc of the trimmings
like the crescent moon.
They flick into the lawn
and my fingertips are nimble again.

Malcolm is the poetry editor for the postgrad writing journal, SWAMP. He and I coedited the poetry component of SWAMP #10, which is due out pretty soon. It was a fun process. Both of us read the submissions and then made a ‘yes’ and a ‘maybe’ list, then wrangled over the final ‘yes’ list. There were some poems that we immediately agreed on, and then the rest came down to a matter of taste.

What I enjoy about Malcolm’s poem is the way it initially looks to be talking about nature in a way that externalises it from himself. The phases and cycles are happening ‘out there.’ The final stanza of the poem turns this around when the poet talks about his “fish-scale fingernails” that are “like the crescent moon.” For me, the last lines suggest that by trimming his nails away he trims away the idea that he is somehow separate from the rest of nature; he is “nimble again.”

Malcolm is a poet and prose writer who seeks, through his PhD, to divine his grandfather, one of the deified Australian Light-Horsemen. What began as a rendition through verse and morphed into creative nonfiction, still draws heavily on poetry as a means of exploring the inexplicable, a conveyor of emotional truth, and in charting responses to trauma. He is also interested in how to convey character through creative nonfiction, giving voice to those previously mute or unheard. Malcolm’s poetry has been published in the University of Newcastle’s Creative Writing Anthology, Archipelago and by Catchfire Press in Voices of the Valley.

3 thoughts on “Tuesday Poem: “The buffalo grass turned purple” by Malcolm St Hill

  1. I love the title! It seems so hesitant, so unsure of the phases and cycles, despite their regularity. Wonderful reading. Will look forward to reading the co-edited Swamp, too :)

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