The night we went to see the Brisbane River
break its banks
my mother from her kitchen corner
stood on one foot and wailed, Oh Bill,
‘Darl,’ my father reasoned,
‘don’t be Uncle Willy.’
And took me right down to the edge
at South Brisbane, near the Gasworks,
the Austin’s small insignia winking
in the rain.
A policeman helped a man load
a mattress on his truck.
At a white railing we saw the brown water
boil off into the dark.
It rolled midstream higher than its banks
and people cheered when a cat on a crate
and a white fridge whizzed past.
Every summer morning at five-thirty in the dark
I rummaged for my swimming bag
among musty gym shoes and Mum’s hats from 1940
in the brown hall cupboard.
And Dad and I purred down through the sweet, fresh morning
Still cool, but getting rosy
at Paul’s Ice Cream factory,
and turned left at the Gasworks for South Brisbane Baths.
The day I was knocked off my kickboard
by an aspiring Olympian aged ten
it was cool and quiet and green down on the bottom.
Above the swaying ceiling limbs like pink logs,
and knifing arms churned past.
I looked at a crack in the cream wall
as I descended and thought of nothing.
When all of a sudden
Dad’s legs, covered in silver bubbles,
his khaki shorts and feet in thongs
plunged into view like a new aquatic animal.
I was happy driving home;
Dad in a borrowed shirt with red poinsettias
and the coach’s light blue, shot-silk togs.
Source: The ABC Book of Australian Poetry: a treasury for young people compiled by Libby Hathorn (ABC Books 2010)