Once in an April moon
Lapped in dark water
Or in some forest pool
You may discern him, still
In rippling shade,
Or see him tilt and glide,
Leaving few bubbles,
Sunk to the cool of his nest
In the roots of the creekbed.
Go down no further. Let us watch from here.
Shadows of scrub lie windless on the water.
Flat-headed, his otter-like body dark as soil,
Small eyes, crude fur and that patent-leather beak,
Blunt limbs and webbed feet
Held just below the light,
He floats and is there.
He has not heard us come.
Not strange, across so vast
A plain of time.
Twice born, and yet a mammal—with a beak.
But see, now he sinks away, perhaps to feed
On the leaf-dark bottom, or to find the mouth
Of his burrow and smear the earth wall as he climbs
And scrambles up to doze there in the darkness.
Hold the thought of him
Kindly to your skin.
It is good to have him in our country,
Unique, beneath our thoughts
To nurture difference.
Changeless beneath our thought
And its disjunctions.
Les Murray, who died yesterday, was one of Australia’s leading poets. He was the author of some thirty books of poetry, most recently Collected Poems (2018, Black Inc Publishing), On Bunyah (2015, Black Inc Publishing), and Waiting for the Past (2015,Carcanet). Murray was the recipient of many honors, including T.S. Eliot Prize for poetry in 1996, the Queen’s Gold Medal for poetry in 1998, and the Mondello Prize in 2004.