What We Do With Water
(on holiday)

1. We Make It When There Is None
   (on the Mallee Highway)

Barefoot brisk-hop through the dirt
glass trash shards to the bush

it is hard to piss among bull ants
with the sun beating down
with the spear grass and those

On this inland stretch there should be a sign somewhere saying
this is no land for pussies


2. We Hold Its Remnants In The Wind
(the Murray)

One wind comes to rip us to pieces
hollering over our heads, sometimes smashing
into our eyes – we wait for the dust we will cough up
in the morning.

We learn to face the other direction
away from the river, away from each other
lose eye contact and breathe in time
with the screaming trees.

In the seconds of the wind’s lull
we come to know the tarp’s threads
will not hold, it has never been anything
but a shelter in shreds.

3. Due To The Swag, We Bathe In It
(the Murray)

Meanwhile, this morning
the scratch of his face stinging pink
even on the small of my back.

Under the smirking moon his hands were large
they gathered my fields, which copperheads avoided
for fear of bending grass. They sculpted my clouds
then shifted them to the opening vees of Silver Wattle,
where Tawny Frogmouths heard us
and made love. They cupped my rivers
into quiet dams where fish swam lazy
in the good life.


4. We Hold Our Breath and Swim
(Thredbo River)

The first one was forced, something like a plunger
in my deep tunnel, while the second worked with me
push and puddle now push and puddle
and finally the third, slithering in lateness,
my insides leaking for hours.
Now, without me, this is how they swim:
jump up and look under, tadpole legs.


5. We Honour The Earth

Signs painted black
on brave white boards
read thank you, fire fighters
for saving our home

and the trees lie down in their graves.


6. We Capture It
(the Pacific)

Distance is still, there is movement
in the foreground. Let this

be a moment:

these pretty lives
dumped by the ocean
every forty seconds.

Make a circle of your fingers
in front of your eyes and let this

be what you have.


7. We See Eternity In Its Mist
(leaving Bateman’s Bay)

Like a heavily swatted fly in the blur of a lazy bubble
we move through each second

as if our car were the mud puddle anticipating the river’s splash
while the splash anticipated
our muddy puddle –
the shadows unconnected

why I say a thing may drink from itself again and again
but will never leave itself with nothing.


8. We Dry Off
(memory of it on the Hay Plain)

hopping in and out of Wallaby Grass

song child and shiver girl and bellowest one in blue bathers
are sand scalped and thirsty;

then boys on bikes these dirt paths, insect crawling
on this hand, skin of browned of smooth of scent
of skin and oh of goose-bumped O’s

and strangle struggle children scream then
laugh so hard

then beans on toast. 



Out Back of the Church across the Road

Cross-winded ride up the mid-north country, wheat like to crack
with each wave of it, some so big the bike rocks, like when those road trains
come I feel my knuckles and the strain on the skin of each dry finger,
or when a dog barks, a car honks, a passenger celebrates
my open options and feels freedom himself in yelling out the window:
I brace, clench and tighten. Don’t want to fall off.

Spool thread hay bales and stone gutted cottages with cool
concrete slabs come steady into view but the gentle hills come up fast
so I push then coast, the click of the locusts in my front wheel
sometimes hitting and bruising my cheek - what god said
would kill us all. I remember the white ute passing me when I see it
ten minutes down the road, pulled over to the side of one person’s nothing
and someone else’s everything and he’s wanking in his ute with the seat leaned back.

That it could have been me in bike shorts and a fine sun on my arms
a sleeping bag strapped to my bike’s back rack setting him off and onto his lap
is a worry, so I say hello to the tiny town of Tarlee, a frazzled woman at three o’clock
one beer well earned and a friendly point to the back of the church across the road.

I can set up tent with my eyes closed, cook gourmet lentils and rice with salt
and half a stick of cinnamon, write about the land and how my body
pumped it dry, especially on those headwind curves –
and nobody will bother me out back of the church across the road
except the evening wallabies, except the morning crows.

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