Walking the river valley



Walking the river valley



It was as if the morning had been caught in the act

Of a warm, heavenly yawn designed to bless the day.


At my feet in a small pepper-pot breeze

A family of wrens sprinkled out,

The male, was over-dressed for a weekday,

In the sheen of his pompous blue.

And a wagtail, a high-ruddered foreman bird,

Was chattering commands to no one in particular.


Higher up, with head down in devotion, a kookaburra

Was beaked out for small murders;

with the azure armorial flashed on his wing,

he was a rakish monk on his saintly wire;

in his taut patience, he was always able

to laugh off his murders at the end of the day.


Away to the left and closer to the river,

The silver thread of an exhausted snail

Had foundered on an acreage of sand.

Closer to the water now,

A tide of wind was running in the trees,

And in the reeds, barely perceptible,

The sound of a calligrapher's brush

On coarse — grained paper.

Much farther away, across the river,

A troop of ibis rose in a faint isthmus of light.


By the river's bank an angler's trim

Was laid out like a game of patience;

He was further upstream wooing the canny fish,

By casting the silver of his lures upon the waters.


Now, there is a looming in the day, a rush of heat,

A northerly is rising.

And the breeze, running contrary to the flow,

Has the river in corduroy.


It might be said that it is the birds that are

The grammar and punctuation of this place,

But for that single gumleaf,

A comma on the surface of a pond.


I have come to the point where the rivers conjoin

As familiar cousins

Come home from a long, long vagrancy,

And there they are subsumed into a dynasty of one.

And so, I sit on the municipal seat with its modest dedication

Very near to that place where, many years ago,

On a tempestuous morning, I saw the strike of lightning —

Spilled mercury in an alarm of light-

That killed one young man whose name I never knew.


The closest trees are trembling now, like a compass in an agitated sea.

But, by late afternoon, we are meteorologically assured,

The northerly will run out of puff

And allow a full-mooned night to settle for a time,

Before that peloton of thunderstorms that is gathering

Far, far to the west of the Barrabool Hills.


The upstream is deep with eels and beneath the Monash bridge

There is a small, cooler place, muttered with swallows or swifts.

Closer in, a guild of bees is crooning the mouthing of a secret hymn

A warm underscore to the morning,

without perturbing that spider

who is silently fondling his legacy to a fly.



By night, that marvel of planetary coinage, the moon,

Rises late, without disturbing the slate surface of the river.

The wrens have returned to dream

In the sway of their reedy tenements,

And, at the sound of the frogged bassoon,

Small crescent moons light up the lurk

In a tiger snake's eyes.

The moonspill creates shadows in ink that are,

For the night, its deep reservations of silence,

Broken only by that sound,

High above the valley on the deviation road,

Where a truck is growling through its gears

With short whining respites

As the great Kenworth bucks in response.


The pilgrim who walks these paths

Must step out the parable of his own momentum,

Wending to the drift of the valley's rivers.

This is a place where time tugs at you, gently, as a string to a kite,

And the poem that is rising

Is nothing more than the writing of you.



Grant FraserGrant Fraser is a lawyer, poet and filmmaker.

Topic tags: Grant Fraser, poetry



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Existing comments

A masterpiece of observation and word association - beautiful poetry - unlike so much of today's lauded poetaster
john frawley | 28 August 2018

Many observational wonders here, Grant. Not so keen on the pilgrim imagery at the death but love the way you describe birds and riverside areas. Also the notion of bird punctuation is fresh.
Bill Wootton | 31 August 2018


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