I take up a long, lone branch, bone white – Anne M. Carson

Warrumbungles Creek, NSW

I lie balanced on the beam of a flood-felled tree,
a bridge from bank to bank. Like a hand at my waist,

a branch keeps me from falling. Water tumbles over
pebbles after storm with liquid ease over rocks, flowing,

unencumbered. The river’s cool breath rises. I hear
the hollow thunk of pebbles’ percussion as you prise

them from the riverbed, toss them aside. The sounds
connect us in silent camaraderie. I take up a long, lone

branch; bone white, water smooth, a ballast on which
I place foot after precarious foot, like over Niagara.

The grip of shoe rubber is palpable reassurance. Half-way
over is hardest – a bird in the cage of my chest scurries –

the stream’s not deep but I fear falling. Balance is an act
of faith. Will taking risks here teach me other trusts;

in myself, you, the wide, worrying world? Upstream,
you make happy industry, damning and undamming water,

aiming to turn what is multiple and dispersed into singular
and strong. The mess of rivulets and runnels is tidied into

one deep channel – a curve of grace you carve in the land.
You revel in the power to change the river’s course. What

is excavated, what runs free? The stream surges like a horse
given its head. It tolerates handiwork as readily as boulders,

branches, floods. At the first chance you know it will shrug
you off, as lightly as a leaf. Play is ephemeral, mysterious.

While I learn to balance on my beam, you practice malleability,
turn your hand to the beauty of the running stream.

 

Originally published by Hybrid Publishers.