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I like the rhythm
of hippos

the wide ripples
they make in the water
that spread
like a run of smooth honey
right into the reeds

they know
I won’t hunt them

they blow near my boat
their snorting nose spray
then roll silently
in the water

till a lump with bulging eyes
tells me they’re back

I watch them all afternoon
rocking on their swell

their huge undulating presence
refreshes me better
than sleep.

— Dorothy Porter

We found “Watching Hippos” in the anthology, The Best 100 Poems of Dorothy Porter, which was collected by her partner, novelist Andrea Goldsmith and presents many facets of Porter — from her break-out verse novel The Monkey’s Mask to her posthumous collection, The Bee Hut. Renowned for her passionate, punchy poetry and verse novels, Australian Dorothy Porter died unexpectedly in 2008 from breast cancer complications at the age of 54.

Whether stretching the fabric of ancient mythology, discovering the beauty of the natural world or inking an intimate message on the heart, Porter’s verse is endlessly captivating.

Editor’s notes:

  • All but the last of the hippopotamus photos in this Brew News bedtime story, “Watching Hippos” were taken by the author herself in November of 2007 and gratiously provided to us by Ms. Goldsmith who, we we’re delighted to find out is “happily addicted to coffee.”
  • We’re grateful to David Berkowitz at Flickr for the third “bloat” of hippos photo on this page from his safari in the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania in February 2011.
  • The poem “IV Watching Hippos” from “The Best 100 Poems of Dorothy Porter” has been reprinted with permission, and is available directly from Black Inc., an independent Australian publisher of non-fiction, fiction and poetry.
  • The Best 100 Poems of Dorothy Porter is also available from The Book Depository (with free worldwide delivery.)

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