Christmas in Australia

Along the waning river bed shy platypus

Turn up dead in fish traps

And cans of bundy and coke rest faded in the muddy shallows

Ducks leave waste in the sun warmed water where they cut the old rope swing.

It had been there for 150 years, the town cried, but in the end it wasn’t the council, but a storm that nudged it clean from the bank where it formed a dam over the river, and twigs and leaves gathered there, waiting for the water to be let out upstream. The tops are sawn clean and red – good firewood, if you can get it. 

Still, the muck is food for the river gums

They twist their white limbs into painful blue skies that make old timers think of the places they grew up in countries far away, where at this time of the year

They’d be wearing gloves and hanging mistletoe and holly.

It occurs to me I’ve hung no Christmas decorations this year – my boys are in Somerset and Berlin

They drink gluwein and stout whilst I crave ice-blocks in a New Zealand Sav Blanc.

Cockatoos hang whitely in the oak trees planted by pioneers

They remind me of decorated birds on Christmas trees, but infinitely more vicious as the decimate the tips of pines and wattle and oak alike.

European or antipodean, migrant or native, makes no difference to sharp beaks.

Still, they drop feathers, like angels – white, yellow-tipped

(Major Mitchells with pink rimmed eyes like fathers drinking whiskey and draining the glasses of Vic Bitter left out for Santa, if he makes it overland across war zones in the Middle East)

In the northern hemisphere I imagine the robins hunkering down for the long dark night

Here, rosellas are festive in green and crimson frocks

Wattle birds (cacophonic and unmelodic) swing from sanguine kangaroo paws

Decorative baubles, the acacia drape pods fall in curlicues, squatter ones hang heavy and full with black seeds

They drop to dry and hot pathways leading away from the river bank and into houses where pavlova is prepared –  a sugary snow feast of egg whites -(we’re not sure whether to own or deny it)

And more angels shed wings – tangerine and obsidian monarch butterfly wings

Carried away by elvish ants.

Sprays of white eucaplyt flowers seem a more apt tinsel here

Hailing from Germany, tinsel recalled the sharp glitter of ice

Shredded silver catching bright sunlight rather than candle sparks

Here the froth of native tinsel is  perhaps less flammable, or more so, depending on the forecast heat wave.

Still, I take the one tin St Nick on a black ribbon we bought together, and hang him in the gum branches I pick on the walk home, brushing off the tiny spiders. He sits quite happily there, remembering the nights of snow in England, and feeling the warm Australian sunlight pour through the window.

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