David Musgrave


Mountain Stream 1

The earth channels the sky
in a kind of sweaty trance:
inching furrows, shallow
finger-diggings of rain and dew

fork in jagged tines across the plateau—
and then the river wrinkles
into a blue scour so rapid
and flat it seems to be flowing uphill.

What’s weirder is mountains shouldering
into the massively empty valley
and across them, dark lightning of dry stream-beds
striking upwards to the peaks.


The Water in Japan

is different. Its rivers defer to gravity, flat-rippled
and infrastructured out, fluttering noiselessly
downstream and over rocks. It knows how to fold itself
neatly into canals, always running, even when still

in bodies that flow through cities in a river of t-shirts:
happy life banana chips and poetry of a strawberry;
how about dressing your heart up? Only anarchists
are pretty in those cities swarming with reality

TV pigeons and waterlilies drooping like commuters
slouched on trains, half asleep, reading books on yoga:
they don’t know that elsewhere, saluting the sun of Nagoya
is the downward dog of Yagoona. Tadpoles throng its paddies

and switch between the stalks, tailed twin hemispheres
glancing mud-puffs. Everywhere I turn, its steam or snow.
I like this ambient atmosphere very much. I want it
by all means very very much at that time. On the train

a pretty girl gazes out of the carriage window.
Her t-shirt says she can’t remember—don’t you see porridge?
Her friend’s says, Eat you? What taste? What size? The train
Crosses a river. It is confident first of all it shows.


Wollomombi Falls

Vertigo begins in the groin:
which is why space carries on below us
in empty strides, we the umbilical
astronauts tumbling up in blue.
From the bottom of the gorge, a thin roar
of falling water tempts us with the knowledge
you can fall only once.

The fence resists temptation: it’s a scar
of woven metal. Some birds descant
from open beaks above the plunging silence.
The trees are tentative, leaking wind:
I remember balancing on the edge
of puberty and thinking, the future sprouts
from scars like these. A mirror

flings a present at the future.
Something as rare as forgiveness in scrabble
happens from time to time: twenty, thirty
years ago a dog fell down this gorge
and survived with only a broken leg.
I think about survival, like the chartreuse-
coloured lichen on the northern side of tree trunks:

I’d thought myself immune to the sublime
having bounced off a tightrope once and survived.



David Musgrave is an Australian poet and publisher. In 2005 he founded Puncher and Wattmann, “Australia’s newest independent publisher of quality Australian writing”. His first book, To Thalia was published in 2004 by Five Islands Press; his second, On Reflection was published by Interactive Press in 2005; and his third, Watermark, was published by Picaro Press in 2006.