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POETRY / Extractions / Emma Croker


Here is what’s left of this place after mining. 
Granite hills are still here; earthen races run scars 
down their sides. Snakes coil on hot boulders. Below 
them, dam walls are washed mostly away. A river 
no feet stepped in twice is still flowing, less so than
it used to but still. The gold mostly gone, but some 
in the rocks, underwater. The banks of the river, eroded. 

In some places, kikuyu grows long on the verges;
introduced grass in the parts where wallabies know 
not to graze. Something they’ve learned. Grass grows 
long under blackberries, too. Blackberries came with 
the miners. The gold mostly gone but the brambles 
have stayed. Human fingerprints stayed. Feet long 
dead in the mud have all stayed. In one place, a wall 

of cement through the river. Makes not two rivers but one, 
interrupted. Beside the river: clearings. Places miners 
used to camp. Places used for picnics, decades later. Tables 
bolted in, benches sitting empty. A tourist sign from the ’60’s; 
a map of the town. Hotel, store and blacksmith. The town 
mostly gone, the map now scratched, scribbled over, a bramble 
of cuts. The bush is hot eucalyptus, loud insects and dust.

The river goes on. 

Wallabies stop; sniff the air, bound off up the hills and away. 
Snakes take to their hollows. Something has changed but 
the sun stays the same and the heat and not even a cloud 
in the sky when the mullock heaps stir. Hands sifting for gold 
emerge from the piles, push back stones from the dirt. Hands 
and then heads and then all the rest rise from below and step 
slow to the river; kikuyu choking their paths. 

Miners step heavy in clothes of cement, dragging a slurry 
of wet. They can’t feel the pebbles stuck to their cheeks. 
Can’t feel the thorns in their armpits and feet. They reach out 
their scribbled-on limbs; some crawl on all fours to the water. 
Their eyes – two dry blackberries each – look for gold. Flies try 
to land on invisible rot. Robins stop singing. A rakali slips quietly 
under the water. Swims away from an arm of cement, reaching in. 

Emma Croker lives among mountains in New South Wales, Australia. Her poems have appeared in Crab Creek Review, The Bookends Review and The Indianapolis Review. She reads your work and posts (sometimes blurry) pictures of birds and insects on Twitter at @EmmaCCroker. She feels better about her species when she reads poetry.