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Katherine Gallagher, from Carnival Edge: New and Selected Poems

Laanecoorie

Laanecoorie on the Loddon, with its long Aboriginal name:
Laanecoorie, the strange sound of it, not knowing what it meant.
The Loddon, fringed by stout red gums, with their knotted roots
reaching down into the riverbed, the stones, the mud.

Laanecoorie, the strange sound of it, not knowing what it meant.
The Loddon, my first river, measuring over my head
and reaching down into the riverbed, the stones, the mud —
more interesting than a dam or mere waterhole.

The Loddon, my first river, measuring over my head.
Prickly January: there to see cousins, swim the Loddon —
more interesting than a dam or mere waterhole.
Ted Malone dived and like a troupe of tumblers, we followed.

Prickly January: there to see cousins, swim the Loddon —
always ready to scream ourselves hoarse.
Ted Malone dived and like a troupe of tumblers, we followed.
Childlike, we trusted the river's bulges, its twists,

always ready to scream ourselves hoarse.
Looking back forty years, two brothers and a cousin lost to Lethe —
that day, childlike, we trusted the river's bulges, its twists
as magpies, kookaburras and wagtails swooped by.

Looking back forty years, two brothers and a cousin lost to Lethe —
that day, we played water polo, raced against each other
while magpies, kookaburras and wagtails swooped by
and we swam full-pelt into the rippling swell.

That day, we played water polo, raced against each other
and our parents watched, faces mottled in eucalyptus shade
as we swam full-pelt into the rippling swell
with never a thought for the futures in waiting,

carrying with us always the mud and the stones and the memory
of Laanecoorie on the Loddon, with its long Aboriginal name;
aware only of the day, the heat of sun, the cool of water —
the Loddon, fringed by stout red gums, with their knotted roots.