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Katherine Gallagher, from Carnival Edge: New and Selected Poems

Murray River Reunion

I — Picnic

Mottle-barked, gigantic-trunked
red gums overhang
the water, drop shade —
mammoths with
the strength of oceans.

Nearby an old orchard
floats apple and pear blossom —
random confetti
waiting for a bride.

Today's a different celebration.
I hear the midday air
level into the buzz of flies
and a cicada drone. The thick tree—
silence is suddenly broken
by carillon peals from magpies,
Australia's nightingales,
reminding me I'm back.

For months I've imagined,
magnified the scene, peppered it
with anecdotes, have seized
the sky's still azure, felt
how the sun sweeps through me,
how my twin-lives have come
full circle to this...

Wind spikes the tablecloth
with sand, a speedboat skirrs
the river, briefly drowning
our voices and the secrets
not told in letters.

II — Verbatim

This is the bush,
I tell myself
looking for koalas and snakes,
echidnas, a kangaroo at least.
I imitate a kookaburra —
(my party act for foreigners).
The children cheer.

We wait for the kookaburras
to answer —
one long scarf of laughs.
That's supposed to warn
of interlopers.
I smile — an interloper,
but with my best face on.