About the Feature

Growth of trees is measured against the red shed,
loud edifice now clear of old hay and dung,
though still cluttered with rolls of fencing wire
extracted and collated from the block, and tools
for keeping the grass down, and paraphernalia
for running the pump, and the air pump itself,
its hoses reaching out under the red walls
to outposts, wells sunk deep through hills,
sucking at the conflicted water table, though now
the pump is at ‘stop’, having rarely lifted beyond
dead slow ahead. The red shed shines in reports
in its discomfort, its red entanglement with a killer
sun, its ventilator moving when the breeze
will barely lift a leaf on the York gums towering
nearby. Bees have been attracted to its gutters
but don’t stick around, it’s that forbidding;
they prefer the trees whose growth we track.
The red shed barely knows itself as waste,
believing its divine purpose: shade to insects,
pupae clinging to sundry items, snuggled
into the dirt floor. I don’t agree with most
of its choices, and though lingering in its cave
even when away, a niche or recess in my mind
concentrating on the scene at hand, I don’t
worship its structural integrity. I have wondered,
a copy of Veblen’s The Theory of the Leisure Class
flapping its yellow brittle leaves when the great
sliding door is wrenched open, a copy
just flung there on the floor, this sentence
underlined: ‘expresses itself in some form
of conspicuous waste.’ From memory
a ‘spiritual’ want languishes in the factory
where shed walls are rolled, or is that far
from the comfort zones of mansions
down in the city, offices of the Club
where red sheds are tossed back
with a drink of fine wine? Captains
of industry. Conspicuous behind
closed doors. The fencing wire,
the pump, the pupae, the pipes
snaking out into places where they
grow soggy with heat, then brittle
when the frosts come, cracking
their covenant, drawing nothing
from below even when the pump
is fired up, thirsty heart of the shed.

About the Author

John Kinsella’s most recent volume of poetry is Jam Tree Gully (W. W. Norton, 2012). He is a professorial research fellow at the University of Western Australia, professor of sustainability and literature at Curtin University, and fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge.