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Category: Robert Adamson

The Voyage

We looked up at Scorpio’s tail of stars

curved across light years of night.

We anchored and made love in the dark,

embraced in the cold before dawn and spoke

of Novalis who praised nocturnal light.

Although my thoughts were dark,

you spoke of those who spoke of light

as they moved through the night:

old saints and fishermen following stars.

The river flowed towards morning

until Scorpio grew pale, fading with dawn,

and darkness sailed into light.

from The Goldfinches of BaghdadFind more by Robert Adamson at the library

Copyright © 2006 Robert Adamson
Used with the permission of Flood Editions.

The Green Shank

Miklós Radnóti, marched from forced labour

in Yugoslavia back into Hungary, came to rest

near a bend in the Radca, at what his translator

describes as “a strange lonely place” where

the tributary joins “the great river,” a marshland

watched over by willows and “high circling birds.”

Condors perhaps—they appear in the notes and

poems he was writing—under a foamy sky.

Huddled in a trench with the body of a friend

who’d been shot in the neck, he wrote with a pencil

stub in his notebook: patience flowers into death.

His wife’s face bloomed in his head.

Thinking of the petals of crushed flowers

floating in a wake of perfume, he wrote to caress her

neck. The fascists’ bullets wiped out his patience.

His written petals survive.

Today, we listen to the news of war

here in a river sanctuary my wife’s unbending

will has created—horizontal slats of cedar, verticals

of glass—a Mondrian chapel of light.

This afternoon just before dark the first

greenshank arrived from the Hebrides.

Ignorant of human borders, its migration

technology is simple: feathers

and fish-fuel, cryptic colour and homing

instinct. This elegant wader landed on a mooring,

got ruffled in the westerly, then took off again,

an acrobatic twister, and levelled down

onto a mudflat—a lone figure that dashed across

the shore, stood on one leg, then, conducting

its song with its bill, came forward

in a high-stepping dance.

from The Goldfinches of BaghdadFind more by Robert Adamson at the library

Copyright © 2006 Robert Adamson
Used with the permission of Flood Editions.

Net Makers


They stitched their lives into my days,

Blues Point fishermen, with a smoke

stuck to their bottom lips, bodies bent


forward, inspecting a haul-net’s wing

draped from a clothes line. Their hands

darting through mesh, holding bone


net needles, maybe a special half-needle

carved from tortoise shell. Their fingers,

browned by clusters of freckles


and tobacco tar, slippery with speed—

they wove everything they knew

into the mesh, along with the love they had,


or had lost, or maybe not needed.

During my school holidays I watched them

and came to love this craft


of mending, in our backyard by the harbour,

surrounded by copper tubs brimming

with tanning soup brewed from


bloodwood and wild-apple bark.

These men could cut the heart clean

from a fish with a swipe of a fillet knife


and fill buckets with gut flecked

with the iridescent backs of flies

as it fermented into liquid fertilizer.


I’d water my father’s beds of vegetables,

rows of silverbeet, a fence of butterbeans.

In the last of the sun, I’d watch


our peacock spread its fan;

the hose sprayed water from a water tank, house high

fed by gravity.

from Net NeedleFind more by Robert Adamson at the library

Copyright © 2015 Robert Adamson
Used with the permission of Flood Editions.

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.