Tractor Maintenance

Matt Stewart
Mists rise from precarious rainforest
holding the caldera wall
as I spread red sealing paste
on a tired axle flange
and the creek rushes in the gully.

While each bolt is tightened 
in the spanner’s toothy ring
birdsong and breeze in trees
cools sun-heat 
from a lustral blue sky
on my fluro-yellow shirt.

My adjacent dogs pant smiles
or whimper in dreams,
in the tractor’s shade
proving that closeness
is what they relax in, 
while I arm-wrestle 
the ghost of the machine,
which haunts me
in daily contemplation 
of life’s imperative repairs. 

Contextual Essay: My poems share the theme of being in a place in one or more moments doing something emotionally and physically absorbing. The activities that are referenced help me to not only cognitively suspend my traumatic memories, grief and anxieties, but also to use them as a motivation for deeply enjoying a favourite pastime, physical challenge or a mundane property-upkeep job. For example, to further process the traumatic memories of witnessing my father’s death when I was a child, I wrote a poem about learning fly fishing at a place in southern NSW where he fished in the 1940s and 50s. I have included a photo of him in Clarke’s Gorge on Cave Creek. I am certain that by going with him into relatively wild places out of my urban place of upbringing, it fostered in me a deep regard for and love of the natural world and a keen commitment to protect the ecosystem from further harm before it is too late. Much of this contributes to my ongoing mental and emotional wellbeing.

Matt Stewart lives on 12 beautiful acres adjacent to the Border Ranges National Park in far Northern New South Wales. He is one of five poets who have been meeting monthly for five years to improve their poetry and discuss issues related to that and to appreciate the work of other poets. The group will publish a chapbook later in 2022. He has read his pieces at “Poets Out Loud”, a monthly gathering of poets and poetry enthusiasts in Murwillumbah and the inaugural Kyogle Writers Festival in 2021. The long gestation of his first book of poems continues.



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