By the River

By | 8 September 2014

Parked under trees
on the other side of the dusty area
where trailers often get abandoned a few days
by truckies who don’t want to pick up far from the freeway
and, yes, there’s a gap in the tree-cover
opening a view, blue and blank, across the escarpment
towards more tree-filled gulleys and ridges cramming out
westwards forever beyond this glimmering skylight –
that’s where I’ve driven the car and its honeyed duco –
the light’s amber sheath on its pale blue grey –
to get a sense of opennesss off-road and of where
the new routes, old roads and highways go
into backblocks, unformed crown land, sideshows,
areas half-settled, half-rich, half-nightmare,
into country without water apart from winter rain
and summer storms which once topped up dams
but now are rare ghosts from climates melted in the past –
in fact, the closest flowing water’s so far away
it’s hard to remember where –
so, here with the door open and the cicadas
buzzing thinner sprays than usual for summer
we could be out for a drive chatting, fixed on this or that,
something picked up and put away and then resumed
like you might with a memory or going back to a repair job
(“yes, I’ll get that two-stroke finally to work”),
questions re-encountered to shift direction
or perhaps to lose it, and then a breakthrough as startling
as the dry green slope with its applegums, blackboys, succulent ground cover,
in the way it never loses faith with air’s immensity
nor with its own crowded care for flowering and pollen.
Looked at, it asks where is it? What makes a zone –
borderless, no-place, jumbled – what makes it bring the flight
of nectar-sucking honey-eaters, seed-pickers, fossickers,
and the thousand pencil-lines of native bees and flies?
It’s nothing. Tomorrow it’s not here. (The light will have changed, Page | 44
we won’t recognise it or think it as a place.) Maybe we’d go on talking,
or perhaps not, and the slope’s richness will, most likely,
drift through us, seizing attention. Really, there’s nothing
to focus us, but so much to take in – so much already said,
just beneath saying, the other side of it. All the events
seem to open up, offering themselves; while a balance quivers
mid-air and settles. A branch etched against all that sky.
It’s the rip in the photo: white paper under the emulsion.
The line runs like a vein across bone, not quite buried,
a whisper of blue on forearms, wrist or breast. It’s
the line of water which once filled a crevice, now televised
from Mars – a tidal basin edged with corroded rock.
It’s a circuit of water doing its motion of out and return.
Two king parrots fly through at this point, splashing
their reds and greens landing upwards in higher breeze:
they’d dawdle there forever, sleek rustling things,
looking out at the horizon like me. They’re in the ironbark —
one side’s a white canopy, but the flowers can be pale pink too.
Hard to classify even if the names seem to connect
and the structure floats there unanchored. Underswell, pressure, pulse,
rhythmic chime and hum, colours glancing back creamed off
from black and white, a thought inhabiting a brew
of gum-leaves in their dangled swatches, a nest of random stones,
some declivity in the sun-struck, sandy ground that’s not yet decline –
an infinitude of timeliness in arrival and departure of
those moments between ourselves – you, me – :
even if really there’s no future, only a kind of happiness – a depth –
neither of us seeing how it had been flowering, drawing lightness to it.

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