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Net-Makers


ISSUE:  Summer 2011

They stitched their lives into the days,
Hawkesbury fishermen, with a smoke
stuck to their bottom-lips, bent

forward, inspecting a haul-net’s wing
draped from a clothes-line. Their hands
darting through mesh, holding bone

net-needles, or maybe a special
half-needle carved from tortoise shell.
Fingers browned by clusters of freckles

and tobacco-tar, slippery with speed
as 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 river
surrounded by copper tubs brimming
with tanning soup, brewed from

blood-wood and wild-apple bark.
These men could cut the heart clean
from a fish with a swipe of a fillet-knife,

they’d 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 silver-beet, a fence of butter-beans.
In the last of the sun, I’d watch

our peacock spread its tail; the hose
sprayed water from a water tank, house high
fed by gravity.

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