RED RIVER GUMS OF GREENOUGH I
Leaning in the wind or with the wind?
Steady summer and winter southerlies
at Greenough are fellow travellers with
red river gums mutely bending low
for you and I who stand here also
on alluvial plains. When inclined
we also find direction, bending minds
like these trees to find a way north.
But maybe these trees, almost on knees,
are pointers for us, praying to us: keep
your heads down in obeisance to age,
to antiquity, rather. The lands here
are ancient as any on Earth’s continents.
So mayhap it is meet and right to bend
a knee as they do to the mystery of life’s
thralldom. On bended knee are we also
inclined to reach out to them now? I stroke
a smooth bole or bough in deep deference.
STEPPING INTO THE SAME RIVER
(Hour by hour the grains in the glass glide down…traditional advice)
That day we ran, cousin and I, in
the sand of the river-bed near
the old homestead; I stumbled then
losing my footing and he ran clear.
Foolish, I protested: ‘I won
the footrace for my school last week.
This is the first time I ever ran
in sand!’ But he was wiser, meek
in victory but winner still.
Which taught me never step in one
branch of a living river until
it becomes another. That done
I too was changed into a man
less concerned with the feeble grains
flowing through the glass. No sand can
run forever—seize what remains
of each moment and search anew
for the next river to flow remote.
This other river was where we
were taught the dead man’s float.
Here my mother said was where he,
my brain-damaged uncle, was caught
in the river weeds and drowned. I’d
see the weeds deep down as we sought
to float on our faces, vainly tried
to come out alive, shaking off
the water and weeds of past time.
Not the same river twice? you cough.
Wasn’t it a new stream sublime
in another country? How can
you forget so easily such
a day by blue water? We ran
together into the cool clutch
of it and then embraced. Oh my
darling, time does pass by
like water, not sand, in rivers.
Born in Western Australia (1936) at Southern Cross, he graduated from University of WA (BEd, Hons; MEd) and Edith Cowan University (PhD). Glen was a founding Assistant Director of Mt Lawley College of Advanced Education (now part of ECU). Currently he is Director of ECU’s International Centre for Landscape and Language and Honorary Professor. Some 60 of his books (including 45 poetry collections) have been published in Australia and internationally. His poems have won prizes, are translated into several languages and appear in over 30 anthologies and dozens of journals. Recent books include Poems of the Wheatbelt (2016), Crouching Tigers & Hidden Dragons (2017), and In the Hollow of the Land (Collected Poems 1968-2018).