Martin Langford - THE DRINKERS

Keats, Brahms and Cezanne are all artists whose work is a gesture of decency, of kindness towards the planet, but who also understood that their art cannot save anything. I imagined them gathering, in defeat, to do some fishing on a river near Sydney.

THE DRINKERS

Keats would go. And Brahms. And Paul Cezanne.
Of all the improbable freaks that the coupling
of species long dead had thrown up.
The three of them drove down at least once a month –
hours out of Sydney – to sit by the shack
on the Hawkesbury, sink a few quiet ones, doze
in the afternoon sun. Not to help –
they could none of them help: but to share
in their grief. If you cared for the life of the planet –
but all you could do was to offer the things
that you cared for a surrogate life, you might
seek refuge too. Their kindness led nowhere at all.
No matter how skilful they were – or how shrewd
their attention – the world would just pour
through their fingers. The art by which
some little waif of the world might be saved
remained stuck in the world.
Why wouldn’t they all get together – to talk
about football or pass on their tips, to yarn
about places they’d seen, or they might like to go?
What was this kindness and what was its place
on the planet?
A cool beer, the wind in the reeds –
while currawongs hunted the eggs of small birds,
the land drifted north,
the sun boiled and howled in its silences,
spilling the waste from its fire-mathematics.