Eltham, where we reside is about 20km North East from Melbourne. The landscape is hilly, unlike most of Melbourne which is a flood plain. It is mostly soft clay, and its evocative panorama was painted by the early Impressionists whose prints are displayed along the many and varied walking tracks around the Yarra River.
It also has many unique mud brick homes and has attracted many sculptors, poets and writers, but otherwise is a typical patch of suburbia.
Because of the suspended silt carried downstream from erosion and run-off, the Yarra River has the reputation as "the river that flows upside down". It is of prime importance to Aboriginal people, whose meaning was thought to be "ever flowing".
I have composed a few rhymes about Eltham and the Yarra to capture those aspects mentioned. By the Bend of the Yarra River is another poem about the river and an imagined Swagman. A Swagman was a common site where I grew up in a country town in far Northern NSW.
Usually there would be one trudging along the road carrying a swag with a Billy plainly visible whenever we went out with my parents in the bush for picnics.
Yarra River & Eltham
River first panned in our quest for gold,
Impressionists painted scenes to behold;
The valleys, streams, hypnotic eucalypt scent,
for verses free flowing from this poets lips.
Bellbirds ring out in parks where we play
And the Magpies warble their carols each day;
In gullies of wattle, under ghostly grey gums
From mountain stream trickle to river beyond
As soil crumbles down the steep slopes
It joins the fast current, over sharp rocks
Down over rapids, flows upside down
Ever onwards over her sacred ground
Bend in the river seen in fading haze,
Swagman pauses to steady his gaze.
Birds cry warnings, in fading daylight;
Pray rest swaggie under a pale moonlight.
Swaggie heeded his feathered friend’s call
Made up his campfire for Billy to boil.
Daybreak, rested, smoked borrowed fag
Refreshed for ever to carry the swag ;
To wander the bush, to live off the land;
Odd jobs for farmers in need of a hand
The romance of the bush no longer I see
Or his picture with swag on a packet of tea
His tuckers all gone, like nations first dawn
Trees morn swaggie all alone and forlorn
The river’s currents are guided by stars
From their mountain streams to oceans afar;
Ghost of swaggie rests in it’s fresh air
Freedom at last to roam without care