for Robert Adamson


Rivers are all the same. Dirty water
if you’re lucky, smelly mud and silt

increasingly the case. And dreary
water sports, flotillas of filthy plastic

bottles and bags; I’d like to emphasise
the stench. Caesar’s Rubicon

on the other hand, soaks my head
in a tale of courage, confrontation

I read when I was seven. On Twain’s
Mississippi, in my room, I floated

away from the indisputably evil
place I was born in. And the Seine

luminous, a Third World dream
for life in a Western city. I swam

in the weird, inexplicable words
of your Hawkesbury, a migrant

with little English, holding my breath
under the phonetics of birds’ names

and scales of fishing metaphors. Then
I was drawn to Melbourne, and lonely

in the struggle with life and poetry
I kept my head above the dark surface,

the swamp of desire and alcoholism,
by drifting alone on the rundown trail

along Merri Creek. I’d scowl at geese
and unwittingly infuriate the drakes

on macabre winter days, menacing
summer evenings. Banks, hardly scenic

after routine floods, beaten willows
cobwebbed with human waste: cable

wires, shoes, tyres, etc. I repeat
the river reeked, a feral fusion

of organic and manmade decay. But
what can I say; leafy corridors,

sunlight accentuating algae
on stream’s translucent face,

even rusted didactic plaques; picture
of these usually soothes, protects me

when I’m hurt or restless, marooned
in China, Turkey, Dubai, Sydney; it’s

just a river, like I said, and just
about the only place I’d call home. 

Merri Creek