Judith Beveridge / Poetry

The Lake

At dusk she walks to the lake. On shore
a few egrets are pinpointing themselves
in the mud. Swallows gather the insect lint

off the velvet reed-heads and fly up through
the drapery of willows. It is still hot.
Those clouds look like drawn-out lengths

of wool untwilled by clippers. The egrets
are poised now—moons just off the wane—
and she thinks, too, how their necks are

curved like fingernails held out for manicure.
She walks the track that’s a draft of the lake
and gazes at where light nurses the wounded

capillaries of a scribbly gum. A heron on one leg
has the settled look of a compass, though soon,
in flight, it will have the gracility of silk

when it’s wound away. She has always loved
the walks here, the egrets stepping from
the lute music of their composure, the mallards

shaking their tails into the chiffon wakes,
the herons fletching their beaks with moths
or grasshoppers, the ibis scything the rushes

or poking at their ash-soft tail feathers.
Soon the pelicans will sail in, fill and filter
the pink. Far off, she can see where tannin

has seeped from the melaleucas, a burgundy
stain slow as her days spent amongst tiles and
Formica. She’s glad now she’s watching water

shift into the orange-tipped branches of a
she-oak, a wren flick its notes towards the wand
of another’s twitching tail. There’s an oriole

trilling at the sun, a coveted berry, a few
cicadas still rattling their castanets. She loves
those casuarinas, far off, combed and groomed,

trailing their branches: a troupe of orang-utans
with all that loping, russet hair; and when
the wind gets into them, there’s a sound as if

seeds were being sorted, or feet shuffled amongst
the quiet gusts of maracas. Soon the lights
on the opposite shore will come on like little

electric fig seeds and she will walk back
listening to frogs croak in the rushes, the bush
fill with the slow cisterns of crickets, her head

with the quiet amplitude of—Keats perhaps,
or a breeze consigning ripples to the bank;
the sun, an emblazoned lifebuoy, still afloat.

© Judith Beveridge

From Wolf Notes, Giramondo Publishing, 2003

Photo by © Jessica Issa

Photo by © Jessica Issa

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4 thoughts on “The Lake

  1. where light nurses the/ wounded/ capillaries of a scribbly gum. A heron on/
    one leg/ has the settled look of a compass,

    Beautiful. The birds and the lake; a poem to start the day with.

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