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WHITE WATER

All night I have slept by white water,
By the rapids all night I have slept,
The dew of the night settling above my face,
Just above;
The cold of the night a skin away from my skin.
All night I have slept, and the sky that wakes me
Is deluded by fog.
Barefoot in mist and in mystery,
I pad past the frozen engines,
Past the tents asleep in fog,
Past blurred sleepers in the fog of sleep.
Cold milk tumbles down my throat,
And white bread yields to saliva.

The hydro-station upstream
Makes this river tidal:
Algae and rock-pool, pebble and sand.
At first light, near neap load,
A hot pool bubbles on the other side;
The river steams, steam into fog,
Fog into steam.
Later, as energy churns energy,
The water rushes green,
Green,
A dark-green, a green-blue,
Emerald and sea-shine
Drenched against rocks,
Dredging the bottom with an undertow.

Mastering the muscle of the water,
Canoes dare and venture, eddy and whirlpool,
Buffeting by the big rock
That carves the rapids into pieces.
Paddle and spray-skirt,
Equipped but in ignorance,
I roll turtle-over to a face full of water.
Warm water in the lap of the earth
Comforts my gooseflesh,
Tainting the air with sulphur.

The sun is a silent dynamo,
Urging timber from earth.
Timber on timber, the forest
Urges the sun.
A butterfly sifts the air
Above onrush and onslaught.
Sandflies fall to limbo,
Black and bloody on my legs;
Wild blackberry breaks to blood in my mouth,
And I hope that no herbicide feeds me.

Copyright © 2004 Hugh Cook

Picture of front cover of ARC OF LIGHT poetry collection by Hugh Cook.

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