The River

(for Jack Holmes)
It begins here, where the land tilts
westward and thin winter sun quilts
patches on the mountains. Where wind
strips yellow from whipped willows, eddies spin
gold-flecked and clear
in this moulting season of the alpine year.

Where I began it runs grey-green
and pelicaned. A folded stream
deep-creasing heat-bleached plains it flows
on easy in its years past cliffs that show
the course it cleaved
through ages in its long, slow shamble to the sea.

I soaked in stories there. Old, tall,
pipe-stem-punctuated tales drawled
along verandahs. But I find
that ambling sagas limp in print, their lines
and colours blur
in faded phrases and I choke on pygmy words.

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