Revisiting river country



Selected poems



& the road spiralling out
into a landscape, blurred hum tyre kiss of distance
picking up scents & wash of the River salt & die back
from when I worked on the landscape
an all year sun tan years ago

orange bauble hang of Christmas
this big old River taking its time to irrigate an imagination

gathering in the warming day Chaffey House
monuments & on the strip of ourselves
designer drinks & a lifetime of knockoffs
flooding the heart for tourists

high vis workers eat the pub breakfast
the suited travellers have vanished
the beer taps are closed off

the road & river flats
oranges grow to the verge
looking for swans in Swan Hill

regional galleries
& their big ticket items

town after town
hugging the curves of water
& pulling from it a life

homeware & lifestyle shutters
open at nine, six days a week
unpacked in the espresso bar

Echuca is a string of hand held families
in the sun, their floppy hats nodding over
ice-creams smeared ear to ear

in Bendigo we sit on the bed
eating treats from along the road
the Age is our tablecloth

the ghosts of parents past, promenade the High Street
they holidayed closer to home
& always travelled with a deck of cards
& a bottle in the suitcase

a rattling of revisiting a River history

weatherboard wood smoke perfume rugby tops & all
a choreographed swing of enterprise
through the Sunday farmers' markets

hills wrap Castlemaine
the trains have stopped running
& the fruit & veg is biodynamic & the sky is scattered wool
as a child would blow on a dandelion

the familiar is worn like a coat
we bend our shoulders as the rain becomes a River
& flows through the gaps of ourselves



for Jennifer Haynes

& somehow
I never picked up

on your notice
maybe our blood had

thinned a little
but even before your death

silence echoed an absence
as I think you would have

turned inside & gathered
all that had to be done

in the wrap of family
& a literature of lists

& delegation
of how you wanted it to be




I can't recall the tree ever being planted
it just was, one day a sapling which just grew
some sort of flowering eucalypt
out of place in the front yard
among a willow, ornamentals & daffodils
I don't remember the year of the drought which killed it off
but its stayed standing & dead
maybe fifty foot & brittle for what seemed forever
with quotes for its removal stuck to the refrigerator
the old man was never keen
more indifference than cost
or the indifference of cost
mum always liked it when it flowered
when the old man died & house was sold
the buyer knocked it down
along with the old man's house
a big block, good soil
without its shadow of the past
& a blank canvas to dream on
somewhere in the suburbs
there might be a chain sawed stack
of flowering gum
staked against the coming winter


Rory HarrisRory Harris teaches at CBC Wakefield Street, South Australia. His most recent collection is beach (2016).

Topic tags: John Falzon, Carol O'Connor



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Existing comments

"... The Age is our tablecloth..."; "...& always travelled with a deck of cards & a bottle in the suitcase..." - just wonderful, thank you.
Richard | 30 November 2016

River reminds me of family stories and travels. Well done Rory!
frankie roberts | 02 December 2016


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