Water Gardening in an Old Farm Dam
Blueing the blackened water
that I’m widening with my spade
as I lever up water tussocks
and chuck them ashore like sopping comets
is a sun-point, dazzling heatless
acetylene, under tadpoles that swarm
wobbling, like a species of flies
and buzzing bubbles that speed
upward like many winged species.
Unwettable green tacos are lotus leaves.
Waterlily leaves are notched plaques
Of the water. Their tubers resemble
charred monster trunks. Some I planted,
some I let float. And I bought
thumb-sized mosquito-eating fish
for a dollar in a plastic amnion.
“Wilderness” says we’ve lost belief
in human building: our dominance
now so complete that we hide from it.
Where, with my levered back,
I stand, too late in life,
in a populous amber, feet deep
in digesting chyle over clays,
I love green humanized water
in old brick pounds, water carried
unleaking for miles around contour,
or built out into, or overstepping
stonework in long frilled excess.
The hands’ pride and abysmal
pay that such labour earned,
as against the necks and billions
paid for Nature. But the workers
and the need are gone, without reaching
here: this was never canal country.
It’s cow-ceramic, softened at rain times,
where the kookaburra’s laugh
is like the angles of a scrubbing toothbrush
heard through the bones of the head.
Level water should turn out of sight,
on round a bed, behind an island,
in windings of possibility, not
be exhausted in one gesture, like an avenue.
It shouldn’t be surveyable in one look.
That’s a waterhole. Still, the trees
I planted along this one bend it
a bit, and half roof it, bringing
its wet underneath shadow to the surface
as shade. And the reeds I hate,
mint sheaves, human-high palisades
that would close in round the water,
I could fire floating petrol among them
again, and savage but not beat them,
or I could declare them beautiful.
Published by Carcanet