Footnotes to a river

  1. Pine trees are confirmation that darkness clings erratically. The river-gums, on the other hand, are pale as thighs.
  2. A streambed knuckled with pebbles.
  3. In conversation with the river, you will not match its fluency.
  4. Bellbird, stitchbird, waxeye, plover, swallow. The gas-blue flare of a single kingfisher.
  5. A waterfall is water ¦ rock ¦ air in exactly equal parts.
  6. Here, dogs emerge dripping from their peaty plash and wallow, mouths open as lilies.
  7. From the thickets, cicada static.
  8. Stare at the surface until your eyes overflow with dazzle, and a thousand small fish look back at you.
  9. By midday, the river is polished greenstone.
  10. (i)Longfin eels loiter in the backwater.
    (ii) Chicken livers make good eel bait. But if you lie on the bank in the warm afternoon and
    watch, you might leave empty-handed, your head full of ripple and quiver.
  11. Emerald dragonflies feast on a rabble of gnats.
  12. Bullrush, flax, floating fern, ribbonwood, swamp-grass, mangrove, sedge.
  13. The river will outrun you, always.
  14. A half-drowned bee will climb to the tip of your thumb, shiver the wet from its wings.
  15. In 2006, an unprecedented spate took the footbridge. All night it boomed through dreams, chilled pillows with spray.
  16. Shrugging off branches, the moon reminds pooled elvers of their path to the sea.
  17. Night drops from the trees, adds its dark tassels to the river.



Cindy Botha lives in New Zealand. She started writing poetry late in life while caring for her mother, a dementia-sufferer. Her work has been published in NZ, the UK and the USA. She was winner of the Rialto Nature & Place Poetry Prize, 2020.