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Net Makers

They stitched their lives into my days,
Blue's Point fishermen, with a smoke
stuck to their bottom lips, bodies bent

forward, inspecting a haul-net's wing
draped from a clothes line. Their hands
darting through mesh, holding bone

net needles, maybe a special half-needle
carved from tortoise shell. Their fingers,
browned by clusters of freckles

and tobacco tar, slippery with speedó
they wove everything they knew
into the mesh, along with the love they had,

or had lost, or maybe not needed.
During my school holidays I watched them
and came to love this craft

of mending, in our backyard by the harbour,
surrounded by copper tubs brimming
with tanning soup brewed from

bloodwood and wild-apple bark.
These men could cut the heart clean
from a fish with a swipe of a fillet knife

and fill buckets with gut flecked
with the iridescent backs of flies
as it fermented into liquid fertiliser.

I'd water my father's beds of vegetables,
rows of silverbeet, a fence of butterbeans.
In the last of the sun, I'd watch

our peacock spread its fan; the hose
sprayed water from a water tank, house high
fed by gravity.

Robert Adamson

Net Needle
Bloodaxe Books; Flood Editions; Black Inc.

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