i.m. Martin Harrison
As the water scats over pebbles, as the creek thins
and trickles, there’s a sound that seems pirated from a flock
of seed-gathering parrots and a muster of hot-gospelling crows.
Along the mud, spoonbills scribble, their bills as frenetic
as compass needles trying to orienteer quick passage.
It’s the egrets I watch most — poised, quiet as Gilbertine nuns,
who with naked feet, seem about to step along a corridor
and enter their prayer cells. I don’t come here often —
there are spiders, ticks, thick-bellied snakes, and toadstools
as bloodless as the fingers of morticians’ gloves.
Once I saw a headless possum, and a pit bull mauling a lizard
it had clawed out from the dampness of a log.
There are trails of bull ants talking chemically and incessantly
to each other, bits of repeating code, and where
the melaleucas leak tannin into the runnels, you’d swear
it was a spill of beef’s blood. But sometimes I like to come
and notice how the spore-cases of the fruiting bracken
are like hemmings of brown wool, or to smell the leaf rot
curated along the path by a team of hard-working
organisms. Mostly, I come to watch bees fly around
the high heat of their hive and swarm their weight
towards the gum blossoms in a light soot of yellow.
Today, I see that the limb housing the hive has fallen,
shattered. Some bees lie trapped in the spill. Some bees
will have fled with the queen. This hive, once a murmuring
blood-warm gourd is silent, and I’ll never see again
the bees’ among the wildflowers, or see them busy
in the depths among the stamens, moving from cup
to cup as though they were flames lighting candles.
I’ll never hear their lingering vibrato like a mind enamoured
of its own music, getting right each thought’s pitch and hum,
its bearing and its course. Bees no longer alive, or high
in their hive, no longer making clear elaborated nectar.
Judith Beveridge is the author of six collections of poetry, most recently Devadatta’s Poems and Hook and Eye: a selection of poems. She first became friends with Martin Harrison in 1979 when he was caretaker at the Quaker meeting house in Sydney and they maintained a strong friendship until his death in 2014.