it is not the river carrying us away

1 February 2014

The armoured bream glint
and scatter. We bunt the hull
against a submerged pylon. The anchor
chatters its chain against the gunwale and
vanishes. We can feel in the swing of the dinghy
how the anchor kites in dark silt thin
almost as the water itself.

This is how the river catches,
hauling what it can from underfed creeks,
widening to pools where the tiger snake,
quick as history, swims in patches
of water warmed to a green
opacity. How many spirits
are caught in the phosphate
run-off, tugged, almost weightless,
against underwater rocks, torn at times,
only to come back together.

Rivers are secretive. They do something
to time. But only rarely do they catch fire –
the day smoking down on us, the cold cinder
crumble of a paperbark under hand, the hot sheet
of the surface at sunset, the hook in the eye
of a whiting. When the anchor is raised,
it’s a dead weight, laden flukes trailing dark
mud as it emerges. We have caught
almost nothing. But we hear,
in the beginnings of night
how, on the river, even
a voice is ash,
at last hushed.

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