The Best Australian Poems 2007

Black Inc’s ‘best of’ series are in the bookshops – Essays, Short Stories, Poems.  In scanning the latter of these volumes I read the poem below and bought the book.

White -Water Rafting and Palliative Care

for my late wife, Gloria

If I had understood (when down the river
you and I went swirling in that boat)
that there were those who knew the ways of water
and how to use the oars to keep afloat
    I might have been less deafened by the worry,
less stunned by thoughts of what lay up ahead
(the rocks, the darkness threatening to capsize daily),
if I had only realised instead
that help was all around me for the asking
    I never asked, and therefore never knew
that such additional comfort could have helped me
in turn to be more help in comforting you.

I’d have found it easier then to simply hold you
instead of bobbing to and fro so much,
for it was you who seemed to be more tranquil
and I whom death was reaching out to touch.

If only I had had sufficient knowledge
in that white-water rafting I’d have learned
that there were those around us (with life jackets)
to whom I might have, in that turmoil, turned.

Instead, because I had not thought of rivers,
or rocks, or rapids, and gave way to fears
that seeking help might make a man less manly
and liable to betray himself with tears,
I was less useful then, as twilight deepened,
than I might well have been, had I but known:
however wild the waves that roll around us
no one needs to live (or die) alone …

Bruce Dawe

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