While her mother lies pinned to her bed under the startling
weight of a cut to the abdomen more than 1,000 km away,
I walk. To the river. To a gentle place beneath she-oak
where the water is a body freshly made. A thick branch
curves to the sand. It is the right height for a woman
to clutch at during the hours of labour that unfasten
reality. I think of the women who’d mind her.
Build a shelter and a fire. Catch the fish to help her
breastfeed. A stream of welcome pulls from my chest
for new life, for each new life that has been will be.
The river world is born into birdcall, leaves silvered by
morning’s water. Sun in the sky and my hair and my arms.
Her mother is alone in a busy four-bed hospital room
I’m too far to bring the fish.

The details of birthing on Country alluded to in this poem are from the teachings of Barkindji poet Dr Paul Collis and are shared with his permission.

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