I Would Say Something of Water

of its bearing on the land

how gullies grapple with its weight

tilt into its chastened light

pearling under the sky’s thumb ball

like some giant liquid metal distilled

from tors in frost-flattened paddocks

the world’s blue and silver filigree.

 

A vertical inventory in tarn or karst,

bound in dams and bores, leashed

by levees, moved by locks and sluicegates,

water turns time into proximity;

as if what matters is the interruption

to its flow, its checked coalescence.

 

Once admitted, water is a fifth column

from time’s icy reaches; incising

a lichen smile across granite,

it redacts the empty creek beds, rank billabongs,

granny-knot river bends so old

they have become little more than a subsidence,

the earth passing a hand over its face, as if waking up

and remembering a quarrel.

 

Its smallest part identical with its greatest

and therefore indivisible,

water vouchsafes no analogy,

requires no embellishment.

 

Water reminds me of the way

truth is figured in the world, the way truth

courses through its own gullies,

batters complacent shorelines,

rises to the gunwales of our craft.

 

So to the soldiers in the suburbs

to those who shared a smoke by pits

who opened files in basements

who crouched in minarets

who remembered where they had picnicked in pretty forests

and the best vantage points over the old town

who gave their names to new histories

incised on skin delicate as calligraphy on fans

 

I would say something of water.

Michael Thwaites Award, ACT Writers Centre, 2012