I dreamt you naked in the creek
Your skin all stars and crying gulls –
Your hair in the cottonwoods; a spate-woven nest
Cradling whitethroats and luminous bodies.
Eyelids flickered in the branches of willows
And you washed my feet in phosphorescent water –
A green herb spat from your sweet mouth
Turned wounds to silver crescents.
I dreamt darkest gods and drowned rivers –
Water hyacinths with eyes of ambergris.
Your body shone; the strange light of seabirds
Caught in the dragnet of the moon.
Bethany van Rijswijk, from ‘Water Hyacinths’.
You cannot hear the weeping of the god
Over the Pyrrhic rains –
The ecstatic drumming of water on dogwood
Drowns the heaven born child.
Spring turns the bracken to ram’s horns
And the god’s mouth is pale with milk.
When its breasts are emptied
The animal is flayed and sown with seed.
Her body is a constellation –
More wound than glowing matter.
But still the child’s fingernails grow in spirals
And circle her in tender dances.
‘Amalthea’, Bethany van Rijswijk.
Still wet with the birth-damp of spring,
A litter of leaves and russet seedpods
Writhes beneath the dark breasts of the wattles.
After the splintered dirges of overladen branches,
The mountain resounds with the swelling cries
Of fern and frost-whelped sapling.
The bloodied waters of winter run clear,
Over stones as slippery as a mother’s caul,
In a ritual washing of the riverbed.
Here, the rusted pump pours a libation
From slits in its animal throat; an offering
To the immortal mouths of mullein and lupin.
Leaf and frond are summoned from beneath the soil
By the luminous utterance of spring;
Their silver bodies seeking the light in spiralling dances.
The soughing hymns of supplicant grasses
Rise from the earth with reeded tongues,
As the gentle beast gasps in the thicket.
All is possessed by the rhythm of birth and rot;
By the green tremblings born of decay,
As root and bulb break through the clay of their burial.
Hyacinths bloom dark as bleeding gods,
From the barren mounds of ancient orchards;
Their palms now loud with holy wounds.
Soon, the willows will be heavy with song,
As the suckling canticles of starling and honeyeater
Cut the cord of the season.
‘Spring Canticle’, Bethany van Rijswijk.