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By Robert Adamson

These water birds flew out from the minds

Of fishermen and became fishing peons

Wealthy sailors watched as darters emerged again

To spread drenched wings in the sun

And marked them as emblems for spinnakers


Painters and ornithologists studied darters

Until they became black-feathered arrows

That pierced the souls of their creators

These birds rode surf of bitter laughter

And wiped out on a zoo’s concrete Key Largo


To imitate darters lovers ripped off their clothes

And plunged into the swiftness of estuaries

Down the water column they entered brackish hell

Their hair transformed to iridescent plumage

Ruffled by memories of earth’s human atmosphere


We can experience the lives of these feathered beings

By flexing our particular despairs each morning

At evening we take in the news as best we can

On late nights we gaze at dead bodies of water

And almost perceive those wet wings working the tide


Source: Poetry (December 2017)

  • Nature

Poet Bio

Robert Adamson
Born in 1943, Robert Adamson grew up in Neutral Bay, Australia, a harbourside suburb of Sydney. As a juvenile delinquent, he often sought refuge on the Hawkesbury River at the home of his paternal grandfather, who fished its waters for over four decades. He found his way to poetry, and over the past five decades he has produced twenty books of poetry and three books of prose. From 1970 to 1985 he was the driving force behind New Poetry, Australia’s cutting-edge poetry magazine, and in 1987, with his partner Juno Gemes, he established Paper Bark Press. He currently holds the Chair in Poetry at the University of Technology, Sydney, and lives with Gemes on the Hawkesbury River. See More By This Poet

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