Deirdre Kessler

Etched in the capstone of the
column at top of Kelly Steps
in Hobart, Tasmania:


Kelly Steps

Footfall makes the first sixteen ring,
echo against the high walls.
And there’s a resonance
with a hollow below, perhaps,
where the original ones sheltered
from a squall, or left a cache
of fishing gear; where lichens still do
their slow compositions in stone,
negotiating with southwind
and salt.

Blocks of sandstone, yellow ochre and grey,
quarried from this cliff, engineered
to three tiers: sixteen wide steps,
then a landing and right-angle turn
to west—Mt. Wellington a surprise each climb,
earlier cloud-shrouded, now not;
then fifteen, landing,
turn back south;
sixteen more.

The River Derwent carved its own deep way,
long before Captain James Kelly pointed,
said, “Steps here,” and his second mate
rounded up a crew of locals,
drove them, paid them badly
in the end.

The language of stone shifts
to meet the quarryman, suits the carver
and the chisel; rock remembers rope
and sweat, grain by grain weeps
for families sundered, whales
slaughtered, until
surface sorrow erodes,
is windsown elsewhere.

The foot finds the worn places,
scuffed with lives

← Older Newer →