When I first moved into the house and garden where I live I imagined an extravagent water feature, with a rockpool and a fall, perhaps a rill winding in from the side path, or a formal pool dropping down into a fern edged pond. Then one blistering summer day, watching a currawong drinking from the film of tepid water collected on the lid of the BBQ, I put out this ikebana bowl, full of water for the birds. I have been watching it ever since, a seismograph for deck steps, a mirror for the sky, a landing for rain drops, a watering hole, a bird bath, a barometer of the state of household equaninimity - if all is well the bowl is full of clean, clear water - and an object of contemplation.
The Shape of Water
Why do they still come to this last inch of water,
claws pivoting the bowl’s rim
to dip further, further into a mixture tainted
by flecks of undigested fruit and seeds,
with its history of wind set out in leaves?
Rosellas, magpies, currawongs know this bowl,
the surety of its blue glaze,
know its reflections of sky and cloud and wind,
its surface tremolo from the beat of wings,
and the times when there is so little
in it but it is water still,
know by faith the shape that water comes in,
and return as lovers to it again, again,
through emptiness and dregs and miraculous re-fillings.
This poem first appeared in The Australian Fabian New November 2010.