On The Banks of The Murray River

7th May 1998, 8:10 am: Outskirts of Berri, SA, on the banks of the Murray River.

Here I sit by the Murray River, under the trees on the outskirts of town. Having ‘presented’ myself to a tree momentarily, I now see how my river lays dormant and polluted, and a sadness washes over me.

This is not the river I recall as a child whilst staying at Renmark on occasion. The colour of the water is different, it has a smell of lifelessness — or do I exaggerate — no, I think not.

As I drove along the dirt road, skirting the edge of the river, I came upon a place where humans had left their discards — plastics and garbage — a desecration. Why can’t people see what they do? A total disregard and disrespect for the earth and its sanctity.

Surely we will all suffer the collective consequence of such selfish and insensitive actions.

The trees are sad here, the Kurrunpa* struggles — stagnate river flow, stagnate stifled air. And then I see a pelican fly low above the surface of the river as I write, seeking its food. What do the bird-life feel of these changing times? I wonder.

And the sounds of Freddy Fender singing on my car stereo drift across the morning, “wasted days and wasted nights”, country in our Country.

My mood is disturbed: my country ails, and the true custodians struggle all over the world as here in Australia, struggling to redress the ecological Balance, and the ‘mother’ speaks — who and how many respond to ‘her’ call?

Addendum:
And I know that I am not absolved from this;
my actions and deeds I must carry with me.
It has become colder since I’ve been here;
I shiver in my body, my hands feel the chill
in the air. C-r-a-c-k, a gunshot sounds-off
in the near distance. Birds take flight,
a flurry in the trees. I desire optimism,
yet sadness fills me, fighting back despair.

And now I hear the sound of a chainsaw
ripping through the air.

[May/1998]

*Kurrunpa: Walpiri, central Australian Aboriginal word, “life-force”.

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