My spade plunges through tough grass
loam, clay, the dolorous remains of days
enlarging each inspection hole
until it resembles a small, neat grave.
I would like to reassemble these shards.
Then the ding of steel on curved terracotta.
I am an archaeologist, or surveyor
an explorer re-charting neglected territory.
Our nineteen year-old was a baby
when I last plumbed these blocked waters.
The eldest of four, he reads at college now.
Nesting thrushes leave the lemon-scented gum
to serenade me from our jacaranda
consolation for this foetid swamp odour
the detritus of our days glugging free.
Roots searching for a drink in drought
formed a web, trapping fat, soapy waste
beneath us, a gurgling, trouble backing up
as relapsed hours snarled into weeks, years
foul, unobserved, accreting
congealing into a dam when we took off
for our longest holiday since nappy days
a break sorely needed, my voice shut
my only dreams left, mad dreams at night.
Then Seamus Heaney shared his thoughts
Philip Levine, too, lighting my candle.
Slick ooze flushes slate-black to clear
our water now flowing, silent, unimpeded.
Sated by earthy success, I feel refreshed
a man with a muddy spade, a clean outlook.
Ian C Smith’s work has appeared in The Best Australian Poetry, Descant, Island, Magma, The Malahat Review, Southerly,& Westerly. His latest book is Lost Language of the Heart, Ginninderra (Adelaide). He lives in the Gippsland Lakes area of Victoria, Australia.