Silt

Back then, road trips and hiking trails
all led to sacred rock: Cathedrals sandstone,
Blueies granite, Moonarie quartzite,
a dolerite middle finger smashed
by the wind and waves in Fortescue Bay,
my hands freezing to the rope,
as I watched your headlamp crawling
like an uncertain firefly
eighty metres up the Tiger Wall.

But when I heard you’d married
it was silt not rock I thought of,
silt in a sunlit river,
that shallow, shaded river
we might have descended together,
might have followed all the way,
but that we kayaked there that day
with the man whose wife you are.

I lost my glasses when I rolled.
The two of you were gone
around the bend and did not see.
I waded my kayak ashore through reeds
under the shade of peppercorn trees.
The mud clutched as I waded
back and forth across that river,
peering like a prospector
for metal’s gleam through clouds
of silt my wading stirred.
I cursed myself and the pair of you,
as shade eclipsed the khaki stream.
And because I was frustrated
I kept thinking of how I’d waded
last night in the clutching silt of you.

Gave it up as daylight tired.
Hauled the kayak from the reeds,
paddled in a crimson blur
that swirled towards the edge of day,
and miles to fall yet with that river
whose name is clouded now.
The Ovens? Or the Goulburn,
or the Acheron.

First published Cordite Poetry Review #96, 2020

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