David Mason: ‘Grandmother Song’

Grandmother Song

We lived out by the river
where the grass grew long
and the mountains rose up blue
and we sang the salmon song.

The fish swam up the river,
their spawn went out to sea,
and those were all the seasons
known to my family.

The men had gone to war,
were shipped home, some with scars,
some with wads of dollar bills
and their shark-finned cars,

but way out by the river
the grass grew up so long
you could lie down with your lover
and sing the salmon song.

The old ones turned much older,
the young ones moved away,
the snow flew in a blizzard
that blew night into day.

I went beyond the mountains
and dwelt by the roaring combers.
I started talking to the seals,
the whales and all the roamers.

My sons were born in the desert
and like many sons before
when they grew big enough
they went away to war.

I’ve known life by the river
I’ve known life by the sea.
I’ve known the silent desert
for my only company.

The desert was an ocean
and in the distant roar
you hear inside a fossil shell
all that was here before.

I’ll go out by the river
and lie down on a stone
where the lizard waits in summer
naked and alone.

If anyone should see me
tell them nothing’s wrong.
I’m just that mad old woman
who sings the salmon song.

David Mason




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