Three poems by Thomas Simpson

THOMAS SIMPSON is a poet and sound artist based in Western Australia. He is completing a PhD at Deakin University combining poetry, walking, and soundscape ecology in south-west WA. His first collection of poetry Bone Picker was published by Ginninderra Press in 2022 and was shortlisted for the 2023 WA Premier’s Prize for an Emerging Writer.

Leading with the neck

Leaving the banks of Donnelly River

an emu blocks

the narrow gravel track.

Her plumage catching

ripples of blue and brown

in barred forest light.

I’m forced to slow

and mimic her gait—

hunched forward, hands folded

under the great lump of my pack,

I lead with the neck

and slowly lift each foot

all the bones and ligaments

relaxing and gathering in a point,

before they spread wide and sturdy

in each balanced step.

We stop and eye

each other side-on

before she darts

into the undergrowth of cycads   

and I stand up straight.

The other side of a mountain

Overgrowth heavy with last night’s rain

hangs over the track, its burden painting my sleeves

before soaking my socks.

As the winding starts and resistance builds,

towering jarrah starts to take on strange angles,

leaning away from the earth.

Dirt and pea gravel grow

into stones and quarried steps

of granite boulders.

Short and sharp breaths

leant so far forward I can smell the moss

hanging onto dimples in the rock.

Trees thin and the track disappears—

the only way is up.

Standing, exposed on the sparse summit,

clinging onto a gnarled and crooked sapling

in the sudden wind, I look west.

The humped serpent of the Darling Range stretches

along the horizon—the ocean and the safety of home

no longer visible from the other side of a mountain.


Moving incrementally around the camp

with a morning sun—already weak

in its autumnal tardiness—trying  

to pierce the dense karri.

Wagtails sweep the dirt floor of the hut

while martins hop over the table and bunks

searching for scraps—glancing at the late starter

shivering as he shakes out his socks.