Our regular survey – cloud cover total, air pearl-grey,
not one waterbird, water is filling the east coast
there’s a puddle of sun among the grasses.
Young melaleucas look like ropes secured to the bottom.
A kingfisher dips into the lake, turns out a wagtail.
I point at the neat forest army, lances upright mostly,
and challenge them to pose for a decent photograph.
Paperbarks splash masses of bright, cylindrical earrings.
We bump into Mark and his guests watching Yellow Thornbills,
their colour a mere hint in this luminosity, as we leave, hear
a call, wait and a Glossy enters our airspace directly overhead
Off to get a flue jab, we are trying to stay alive.
My mother is still living, yet I can feel my strength, flexibility
and energy slowly ebbing. I never felt the need to make a life,
just to live one. We wait, a gaggle in the car park, Yellow-tailed
Black Cockatoos call, we are the only one to look up.
I tell the nurses my epiphany with the ancient magnolia
– Fuck, I’m an old man, fuck. Wyn says enough swearing,
but epiphanies seem to be rare these days, and discounted.
They laugh, one nurse says, You’re like a Magnolia.
Oh thanks, I look a 100 million years!
Laughter. No, you look blooming. More laughter
Wyn stays for a check-up, nothing will be this good again.
Down in the estuary, the water plays it cool, rockets frame
a mangrove, ruins of ambition prefigure the heads.
A Bar-tailed Godwit probes the flats, it’s beauty revealed
in subtle greys to brown on a mosaic cowling and white belly
not wounded by this scrimped light, it’s athletic powers
for its relentless journey invisible. My heart warms,
the brain has sent some kind of drug round my circuit.
I pick Wyn up as the rain charges – we pop in to see Mark,
I had offered, but he said he had fresh chocolate brownies.
Aboriginal people tell stories of Country, we were swapping stories
of adventures in far-away places, arrested for birdwatching
in Egypt (a kingfisher flew into the Presidential Palace), scoring
hash in the black Bedouin encampments outside Tangiers.
I read that 200 million children are going without enough food – send more money to Save the Children. Could mortgage the house, could should could . . .
Next day, Mark sends an email – Your mention of seeing black Arab tents on your earlier travels later evoked a memory of Francis Thompson’s poem, An Arab love song. Tonight, we sat around with a few bottles of red and had a chat about it.
I had to look it up and yes, it’s an interesting poem.
Bar-tailed Godwits are the world record holders for non-stop flight: they have been recorded travelling 11,000km from Alaska to New Zealand in only 8 days, flying at an average of more than 50km/h.
Two subspecies of the Bar-tailed Godwit overwinter in Australia:
Limosa lapponica menzbieri breeds in northern Siberia and overwinters mostly in north-western Australia and in Southeast Asia. Listed as critically endangered.
Limosa l. baueri breeds in west Alaska and north-east Siberia and overwinters mostly in northern and eastern Australia and New Zealand. Listed as vulnerable.