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By L Kiew

Wet greeted us everywhere, its green
mossiness, earthy and insinuating between
flipflop and feet, woody drips from the dark
canopy, squelching leaflitter. It licked us
along the dark corridor, skidding from concrete
kitchen onto long veranda and down
the steep slope to that sudden sunlit
padang and beyond, flowing glints
clean water, swift, and there she was:

Sungai; kakak, capricious sister,
she sprayed us with sweet stream scent,
skirted soft sandstone, rocks slippery,
shoulders undercutting earth banks.
Her spirits altered after the rains.
Waking us, she grumbled gravel,
grumpy at being rust-rushed, bearing
the load of overlogging, heavy sediment
from up valley deforestation.

Our old white Ford was a rhino,
turning reluctantly out of the gate;
its lurch-lumber expelled me from
forest home to other study stations.
Tear-blind, feeling sick, evicted,
I looked back to the red-roofed
refuge of crashed out lorrymen,
its altar offering oranges and incense,
the giant banyan with roots upward,
branches hunched over, weeping.

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