Evening Cantillations

a gentle
HA …
and dusk begins
in the tree beside the deck
I’m not from here; don’t know that voice…
I slowly turn my head
and spy a dark cloaked figure
bathed in blood of dying sun,
bowing to his mate on branch below
the signal done
he raises yellow eyes to cobalt sky
and falling notes ring out
CAA-RA cara
one voice, it seems; one phrase I heard
one fundamental thread
but silhouettes show his then her
small movements of the head
I grab a book on Bass Strait birds:
black feathers trimmed with white;
distinctive voice; a massive beak…
Black Currawong!
population: in decline;
… that must be wrong
CAA-CARAK caa-carak
endless mantric repetitions
a cool, enshrouding air
in shades of pitch the mountain melts
the tree (it seems) no longer there
stars begin to prick the sky
as she responds with
between duo incantations
they perch listening
… but what for?
like them, I stand transfixed
a symphony of frogs
waves on distant shore
interlocking fractal fragments
a vast entangled round
remote renditions of their song resound
HA … CAA-RA cara …
CAA-CARAK caa-carak
CACACA huu-haw
myriad other adepts intone the passing day
in sounds of suchness; far and near
does our planet spin because they do? or …
a roll call circumnavigates
reconfirming “we are here”
I shiver ’neath the Milky Way
and feel an aching loss…
a sudden grief at all of this.
man’s noisy world, where I come from,
has severed lines of song
and smothered tranquil bliss

Modern Man!
population: in denial;
awareness: in decline;
HA …


I recited this poem at my recent Husshh:  … hearing takayna concerts with Emily Sheppard in Latrobe, Launceston and Hobart, and around the campfire at the TiM artists’ final gathering. After the concerts were over, we recorded our music and poems in a studio in Hobart this week. This included the backing track of black currawongs I’d recorded on Flinders island 2 years ago.  We also recorded my little “Cantillations” composition based on this song of the currawongs and frogs – a trio for shakuhachi, violin and viola.
NB. We heard currawongs on the fringes of the burnt forest where we camped in the Tarkine, but their melody was different to the 2014 Flinders Island evening song.


Cover_Image_large   An illustrated book of the Endemic Birds of Tasmania. I highly recommend this book. An excellent resource on the birds of Tassie. According to Jennifer, the black currawong of “mainland” Tassie is not in decline. And neither is the currawong of Flinders Island where I had this encounter with these amazing birds. It is the King Island currawong that is in decline due to clearing of its forest habitat. There are three subspecies of the black currawong:  Strepera fuliginosa fuliginosa of Tasmania; Strepera fuliginosa parvior of Flinders Island; and Strepera fuliginosa colei of King Island.  May the black currawongs of Tassie and Flinders Island continue to thrive, and may enough forest be allowed to regenerate on King Island…
The first visual artist I met on our recent Tarkine in Motion adventure was Gail Shepherd, a shy, self-effacing artist whom I immediately took a liking to. I had been dressed in flimsy white and filming all afternoon with Dan and Emily and was cold and my injured shoulder aching in intense pain. I was not good company. (A big thank you to several artists and volunteers based at Arthur river that night who gave me Reiki and healing hands.) Gail asked me about my art form, and I said that normally I think of myself as a musician, but my body is currently making that difficult to achieve, so I was in the Tarkine primarily as a poet. Gail encouraged me to tell her a poem, so I quietly shared Evening Cantillations with her and fellow poet, Philip Harrington. A week later, Gail sent me photos of her daughter Kindra sketching a currawong that happened to land next to her in search of a portrait. Kindra came to our performance in Design Tasmania, Launceston, a beautiful and very bright and attentive young girl. I love this drawing!
The next chapter in my Tarkine Adventure: -–> Husshh … hearing takayna
Table Cape to Design Tasmania ..<–  The previous chapter

About anne norman

musician, shakuhachi player, author, poet, tea lover...
This entry was posted in Environmental essays and poems, flinders island, my meanderings, poems, Tarkine in Motion 2016 and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Evening Cantillations

  1. Pingback: Taple Cape to Design Tasmania | peripatetic musings

  2. Pingback: Table Cape to Design Tasmania | peripatetic musings

  3. Pingback: Autumn Haiku | peripatetic musings

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