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Four Poems

Pied Butcher Bird Flute Solo

I steer at full throttle, the boat lifting up
onto the plane, shooting past
Dead Horse Bay, straight under
the bridge and into the upper reaches
of the river. We glide the surface
of the incoming tide, I want to
make it to my marks on time –
now a great white sponge of fog
has come down around us,
it dampens my hair and suddenly
reduces visibility. I cut the motor
and we drift with the tide which takes
the boat close into the shore.
The river narrows and there’s eucalyptus
in the atmosphere. Silent now
and almost blind. The fog envelops us.
At first, a few wobbly notes
coming from all sides, a deep throated
fluting climbing the bird-scales,
it loops into a theme, then notes cascade
into a melody that drifts over
the silk of the surface, under the rolling
blanket of fog. So lovely a song
it almost sounds like human-whimsy
becoming a liquid bubbling,
almost a blue yodel, the ghost of Jimmy
Rodgers, then fades again.

A few plopping splashes, mullet
hitting the cotton wool air above them
and landing with belly flops.
We drift silently until a cricket
kicks in with a high, nervous drone
for a thin moment. Almost silence awhile
until that murderous avian spirit
player resumes the masterpiece –
now concert flute, mellow toned
with a sort of back-beat, an amplified pulse
underneath its sweet mock caroling.

Brush Turkey In the Cold Room

for Anthony Lawrence

At the Fisherman’s Co-Op
I stand in the cold room and look out the window’s
scale-plastered glass, the river’s being
whipped up by a westerly, chop cuts across
the ferry’s prow and brakes into white spray.

Someone’s hung a no smoking sign in the freezer.
We puffed our way through the best days of our lives,
and shortness of breath didn’t bother us.

Dutch walks up from the pontoon with a box
of dusky flathead, the neon light from the hood
of the freezer flares all around his hair –
He’s a classic cast the net on the other side
sort of bloke – he shovels flakes of ice
onto his catch, then lights up a rollie, at 50
he’s still strong as a White Ox – ‘We spend our life
waiting – lines, fish, love and money and in no order,
whatever comes up first’ – he repeats every time he drinks.

A brush turkey walks into the cold room,
glances sideways, and stupidly, senses no danger –
Dutch keeps shoveling ice – its tail a black fan
vertically held, its wattle bright as orange antifouling paint.

Death of a Cat

Siamese seal-pointer, ghost cat.
My familiar and killer,
sleeper under covers.
A true carnivore
devoured hundreds of pilchards
maybe thousands,
and many baby brown snakes.

That pair of kingfisher bodies.
First the pale female,
jumped and tortured.
Then the male
who returned to help his mate
and met death by tooth and claw.

Roller of lizards and skinks,
blue-eyed and sleek.

Bully-boy with a foul tongue,
most articulate at night.
Shiny, cream-furred cuddler,
brown-eared stalker.
Attention seeker and bird watcher.
My wife’s tormentor.

The one who ate a dozen
live garfish whole,
stolen from the bait-tank.
Taut-bodied, razor-footed climber
with sprung-rhythm.
Stuck among branches yowling.

Ripping the chairs apart,
while purring for praise.
A ‘legend’ according to my son,
to my wife, a demented prowling beast

My darling and terrible
King Tut, who prowled here
for eighteen years, before The Mower
cut out his kidneys.

Praise and Its Shadow

Standing on this rocky shore
at the end of the point, sun’s
hitting sandstone escarpments as it sinks,
colouring everything red –
I watch the felty black surface
of the river carrying pelicans
downstream to the mouth.
I could easily disappear into
this landscape, become
a fisherman again and work
the tide through the moon’s cycles
and its darks, pierced with stars –
A local Novalis, courting
the night itself – my nets always
coming in without a catch,
at dawn each new day my head full
of emptiness, nothing there
but love for the long, echoing darkness.

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When the pub became overcrowded with tossers from North Sydney, we’d head over to Spanky’s with a case of beer and settle in for the rest of the night. He had a huge plasma TV and a lethal sound system. He’d pass around joints like he was dealing out poker cards, even when we couldn’t afford to buy anything. He’d let us use his computer to surf porn sites and to download acid jazz. 
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