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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 10 (January 1, 1937)

An Old Australian Fisherman

An Old Australian Fisherman.

Through his brown hands the nets, like shadows, slip;
Black as the depths they float in. And each rip
The silver throated salmon made last night
Across the webs that held them choking tight,
In, yet apart from, their foam-dappled sea,
He mends with his thin mesh-stick, patiently.
Above the rack he bends, and never dreams
How rich the years have made him, though the gleams
Of vibrant wonder tread his brain in Spring,
When cape-weeds tread the world, and wildly fling
Their crooked golden pennies at the feet
Of bowing trees; but, soon these gleams retreat
In toil, until the calmer summer days Spin about Pelican a pulsing haze.
Then even as the seas’ cold fore-feet grind
Into the sand, so does his restless mind
Grind through the past, and searches for the few
Great hearted men that long ago he knew.
Then, memories of sun and wind and rain
And kangaroos that fled across the plain
Like broad red shadows, rise in him and fall;
And he remembers trees that mounted tall,
Into the Bega skies; and hears the harsh
Honk of the mountain duck across the marsh,
And anxious swans that speed beneath the moon,
Like singing arrows to their blue lagoon.
And things that he has touched, his hands remember,
On this sweet parching morning of November,
While with deep surgings, slow and indolent,
The water knocks his boat, as though it meant
To turn his mind to other thoughts than those
That lean within the morning like a rose
Of crimson in a jar of ivory.
He does not stir. He dreams about his sea,
And rain upon his roof, and wave-thinned oars
Thonged with dark leather, and the curving floors
Of boats that he has rowed, and the leaden seine,
Sweating with salt … until the tide again
Knocks at his side in swirling, mute demand.
Rolling the brown tobacco in his hand,
He masks its bitter richness with a coat Of paper white and turns his bobbing boat
Towards the little town that holds his worth,
This tall brown man, the very salt of earth.

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