Three dabbling teal startled into flight plunge headlong through the trees;
And to one side of a bridge already old when you were a boy, a young couple
find a chance to be alone, watching for water-hens hidden among the reeds
where the receding waters have left a ribbon of sugary sand.
Giant Murray Cod patrol the depths of these dark currents.
Locals tell of entire waterfowl taken in a single gulp.
Back in camp your cousins laugh as they prepare the barbecue,
sharing those tales always told at family gatherings when we picnic
into late afternoon, smoke drifting through the coolabahs,
older children running about, skipping stones out over the water,
the younger ones asleep in the shade, with grandmother brushing off the flies.
The bees conjure their magic within the waratahs.
Throughout the hot day they bumble through the flowing grasses
and ticking weeds, the masters of their own clock, reading messages
in the clouds, their mutterings promising a weather change during the night.
Across the river two tribal fathers drag a net of thrashing fish.
Tomorrow’s forecast will end the quiet stillness in the trees.
But you are preoccupied, once again caught up in the warp of time,
dwelling upon those wild impulses
that drove the loss of your own imperfect innocence.
You summon that fading memory out of the murk
like a half-forgotten fish story,
as if it were a phenomenon that you hoped to fix in space, a vague recollection
of a spontaneous thing now as elusive as the wild ducks lifting skyward
beyond the trees, breaking away into the air.