from issue #2: Poetry by Mark O’Connor (I)

Photo (CC) Michael Ziimmer @ Flickr

Photo (CC) Michael Ziimmer @ Flickr

Dawn at Coopers Creek

Sliver of moon
like a feather hung in the sky

curved piece of dawn-fluff,
wafting in proto-blue.

A pelican’s hook-necked ship
trails a flotilla of ripples,
points his half-metre beak
at fingerlings, leaves me unthreatened.

His silent inboard
propels him at twice walking-pace.

Taking off, his wings beat water
like a stick in a bicycle wheel, then
burring free, flap loose,
freewheeling precarious over the viscous surface.

Re-lapsing, he kills speed into the water’s airbag.

The first bleed of yellow light into the water’s ink
makes a bankful of chiaroscuro’d trees.

The heron’s lazy butterfly-stroke
barely defeats the dawn wind.

The shallow fish-death pool
is spent-feather and fish-dropping soup.

Corella pairs wake softly, sidle out along a twig
their love less clamorous but as sure
as at noisy sunset.

Pelican droppings recycle fish lives
into water some say is left to waste
–might grow cotton for a thousand people.

The corellas know
about hawks, and irrelevant pelicans

where the food lies, where the wild cat hides;
but like us are concerned
with internal politics
and the contours of love

Black-edged coolibahs, redgums
against an egg-yolk rising sun.

Corellas at morning too quiet to mind
the intruder under their red gum
observe, concerned. Each pair in touch
from foot, to hip, to wing-shoulder.

A hawk tries to hang on sinking air, is forced to flap.
Sets them off.
Water hens steal away, two by two,
into the giant buckwheat.

Now it’s plain day. The light grants colours.
But as yet no hint of sun.

Everything waits, throbs in abeyance
for the day’s heat engine to start up.


MARK O’CONNOR was born in Melbourne in 1945 and graduated from Melbourne University in 1965. He has been the Australian National University’s HC Coombs Fellow and a visiting scholar in its Department of Archaeology and Natural History. His poetry shows special interests in Italy (where he spent some years), in the Barrier Reef, and in other Australian environments. He has published 15 books of verse and is the editor of OUP’s much re-printed Two Centuries of Australian Poetry. He was Australia’s ‘Olympic poet’ for the Sydney 2000 Games, with a fellowship from the Australia Council to ‘report in verse on the Games’. Visit him at

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