Autumn, Wanganui River

The river, a black tongue,
wears the early winter like a shawl,
winds up the festivals
of the reckless summer eaters.
Already life evicted
and only now the absence
of the kingfisher, the heron,
the wind that hurtles through the reeds,
drunken, reeling.
The madness of fall,
of life that would hold on,
and the colours baked fiercer
under the husk of the sun,
the summer turned inward,
purple hunger, devouring,
leaving this world
a burnt-out gourd,
and the river, like a wintry eel,
dripping its black skin
in long strips to muzzle the land.


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