Rafting on the River in the Spring

© Will Moody

Equal Winner, 2013 International Bush Poetry Competition, Hunter Bush Poets, Morisset, NSW; Winner, 2013 CJ Dennis Poetry Competition – Open Section, Toolangi, Victoria.

Rex, I still remember when we got out after school,
how we’d hurry to the river and our favourite rocky pool
just below the weir at Thomson’s, with young Timothy O’Toole
…days when we went rafting in the Spring.

When we’d had a swim and cooled off, then we’d go and get the raft
made of palings, rope and kero tins…she was a rugged craft!
But she gave us lots of good times…Rex, remember how we laughed
rafting on the river in the Spring?

Hidden under hanging branches near the bank above the weir,
camouflaged with old tarpaulins should a grown-up come too near.
Pushing out into the river with two sapling poles to steer,
three mates on the river in the Spring.

We would pole her up the river for a mile or maybe two
(well, I might exaggerate a bit, I’ll leave that up to you).
Then we’d let her drift, engaged in battles with a pirate crew
…masters of the river in the Spring.

Sometimes we’d tie the raft up where a rocky creek flowed down
to add its cool, clear water to the river’s muddy brown
and we’d go and hunt for yabbies with some raw meat on a string,
…hunters on the river in the Spring.

Remember raiding orchards where they grew along the banks?
And the farmers, if they caught us, would be sure to show their thanks
with yelled curses and a salvo…but we knew they loaded blanks
when kids were on the river in the Spring.

We disturbed the local wildlife as we glided past the shore…
there were roos of course, and wombats, there were emus by the score.
And…when a blue kingfisher would flash by us on the wing…
magic on the river in the Spring.

Springtime seemed to last for ever…filled with mesmerizing days
fishing floating on the river in a timeless, aimless haze.
Until we had to leave behind our carefree, childish ways…
rafting days were over with that Spring.

And I know that there are other…bitter…memories we share.
Like monsoon nights…jungle fights…and mates we lost out there.
But mate, I’d rather look back to a kinder landscape where
Tim’s still rafting with us in the Spring.

Spring and Summer’s far behind us, Rex, the years flew by so fast.
And now old mate, we feel our age in Winter’s chilly blast.
But while I can, I’ll treasure all those warm days in the past
drifting on the river in the Spring.

Rex, I wonder if you hear me, though you only sit and stare
out the windows of this hospice from your therapeutic chair
…and whether you remember, mate…
does some memory still cling?
    Of days when we went rafting…
                                                           on the river,
                                                                                 in the Spring.

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