Kayaking Captain Cook Creek,

I still my paddle blades

to approach a flotilla of swans

and an Oxbridge syllogism

fills the dripping pause,

All swans are white,

these birds are swans,

these swans, therefore, are white.

The black feathers which float before me

flout the northern premise of the dons.

I hunch to glide beneath a bridge’s concrete pillars.

Dodging fishing lines, my thoughts reel in platelets of a time

which bleeds down from Mount Cook and Mount Mangana:

men in buttoned coats and breeches scooping

water from this creek, ringing the woods with iron axes,

blazing pademelons with muzzle loaders;

and the Nuenone standing witness to a singular event

which turned antipodean logic on its head:

All men are black

these strangers are men,

these men, therefore, are …

Beige as cowries?

Pink, puce and blue as sunset?

Ash white as revenant ancestors?

Children splash and squeal in the curling fringe of ocean,

blessed and cursed with scant rememberings of Truganini

surviving her first horror.

Swans quiver, flap wings, blow bugle beaks,

trundle the creek mouth in a gawky lift off to an airborne arrowing,

then they dip and settle, feather-soft yet wary,

further out upon the sun-shocked bay.

Anne was the poetry editor of Birdsong, a celebration of Bruny Island birds, which includes Black Swan Event, Adventure Bay. This beautiful collection of poetry, essays and artworks was published by the Bruny Island Environment Network (BIEN) in 2014. It is now in its second edition, with the addition of an extra image by Michael Leunig: Holy Fool with Birds.

Copies of Birdsong may still be available, but don’t delay – contact BIEN for more information.

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