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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Special Australian Edition August 2023
The River Passes, poems by Mark Tredinnick.
The River Passes
For Jodie at Fifty-Four
On the Snowy River
29 January 2023
THE RIVER passes right to left across
Late afternoon, and, bending at the pines
Where we came in, it freights the ageing light
Back west against the last words of the day.
Among the ti-trees, chita chita shrills
An end to days that took a month to warm
To the idea that something wants to start.
A coolness comes.
A shrikethrush treats its moment
In the limbs of a grey box like a lute.
Along the flats loose cattle bawl, and shade
Begins to make a night of it where summer
Was a herd, belly deep in pasture,
Last time I looked.
Last time I looked, the luck
That lands me here at dusk in the Divide
Was you, in the beginning like the word,
And word of you plays green on blue among
The timbered hills and pulls the distance close
To sit with me in my good fortune here:
The eve of fifty-four years of you, my love.
Night heron barks, a cricket bites the tongue
Of all the cockatoos that want to shush him
From his alleluia obligato
In the flint and granite ground. Let evening
Fall and rivers run and cocker spaniels
Leap into my lap and trap my hands
Behind my back
A scent of newness from the earth—for you.
ART airdrops me into tight places—remote,
and near and fathomless moments—and art says:
now see if you can get yourself, and some of the rest
of us out of here alive. To give you an idea, poetry drops me
in love, in old ideas, in forests, fires, fireplaces, oceans, river
beds, women’s arms, grasslands, migrations, riptides, my lives,
other lives; in grief, bewilderment, sunrise, death, and delight;
in the comic genius of dogs, the hermeneutics of children’s
voices, in the end of life, in estuaries, rainstorms, proverbs. It offers
rope, rhythm, metaphor; it proffers horses, phrases, books of form, new-
ness, the music of the intelligence of mountains, idiom, birdsong,
chords and keys and awareness of some ways of knowing, some
plumblines, some clues, clouds. And it says: love, practise
dignity, tenderness; be fair, exacting, and kind; forgive, some-
times don’t forgive; never stoop to vengeance; disdain
the practice of power, except maybe where it might do someone
some good; make yourself useful; be fearless, poised; make
only the moves that only you can make; love what you love;
let everything break your heart; let grief come and stay
till morning breaks the day like a colt; let winter just
be winter; be sad and grateful; hate cant; eschew theory; pay
respect; dissent; work it all out for yourself; make play; be funny,
if you can; be right, if you can’t; make your work memorable,
unrepeatable like your life. Oh, and don’t bugger up
the language; improve it if you can, even if just
by a few lines the future thinks it can’t live without.
And begin. Keep on beginning until the end.
Woodhill in Rain on the Eve of An Anniversary
THE RAIN became the whole night long; the darkness, an inland sea.
And I don’t think you slept any more deeply in it, love,
than the horses sinking out there in their fields.
When you rose in the dawn,
the valley was in cloud—the mind of a kind-hearted deity,
Who could have done, like all of us, with bit more kip.
We are travellers now, you and I,
and each morning is a new land, eloquent with birds;
The weather grows vast around us, and roads slide from valley sides,
behind us, as we go.
From inside the cloud-base this morning, a butcherbird,
her six notes a droll liturgy on a long loop,
A flute among harps, in which I think I heard a note of hope expressed
That soon an end will come to all that falls.
If I have taught the birds to find you, love, you have taught the days to wake me
Like a valley that knows itself a valley, no matter the opacity of the air;
You have restrung me, rebegun me,
And I am again a future two or three hundred million years old,
And tall with songs you sing in your sleep, and steep with woods,
a scarp that’s done, for now, with falling from the sky.
© Mark Tredinnick
Mark Tredinnick is a celebrated Australian poet. His honours include two Premier’s Prizes and the Montreal, Cardiff, Newcastle, Blake and ACU poetry prizes. His writing and teaching over twenty-five years have touched the lives and influenced the work of many; in 2020 Mark received an OAM for services to literature and education. His books include Fire Diary, A Gathered Distance, The Blue Plateau, and The Little Red Writing Book, and Walking Underwater (2021). His fifth collection, A Beginner’s Guide, was published in 2022. In June 2023, Mark received the Golden Tibetan Antelope International Poetry Prize, an honour bestowed periodically on a foreign poet for their body of work.