Poem: The Lost Man

Judith Wright’s poem, The Lost Man, was written about James Guthrie Westray, a survivor of the crash of the Stinson in the McPherson ranges of SE Queensland in 1937, who died after falling over a waterfall when hacking through the jungle to seek help.   The “gold bird dancing” refers to the aircraft, although the poem may also be read as a description of our journey through life.  The religious allusions, including the pun in the last line, are immensely powerful. This poem has been set to music by Ross Edwards.

The Lost Man
To reach the pool you must go through the rain-forest –
through the bewildering midsummer of darkness
lit with ancient fern,
laced with poison and thorn.
You must go by the way he went – the way of the bleeding
hands and feet, the blood on the stones like flowers,
under the hooded flowers
that fall on the stones like blood.
To reach the pool you must go by the black valley
among the crowded columns made of silence,
under the hanging clouds
of leaves and voiceless birds.
To go by the way he went to the voice of the water,
where the priest stinging-tree waits with his whips and fevers
under the hooded flowers
that fall from the trees like blood,
you must forget the song of the gold bird dancing
over tossed light; you must remember nothing
except the drag of darkness
that draws your weakness under.
To go by the way he went, you must find beneath you
that last and faceless pool, and fall.  And falling
find between breath and death
the sun by which you live.

Photo:   A pool on the Stinson Walk, Lamington Ranges National Park, Queensland.  Credit:  Life Cycle.

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