The Sapphire Coast – Graham Kershaw

Casualties of migration stain the rose-powder beaches:

corpses of Mutton Birds exhausted at sea, relicts of pilgrimage

washed ashore to litter this last refuge for depleted souls

with the bloated bladders of salted, sun-fried skins,

clumps and splays of glazed quills, the delicate, tangled ivory

of splintered bones; all this useless industrial machinery.


Suspended like a hammock between cities, this valley

should be a cradling nest, but the last threads of rainforest

hide in dry gullies now, tender ferns retreat discretely

into the land’s intimate seams, as it weakens at the knees,

tilting into Pacific with slow, titanic finality, these cliffs

one stoved terracotta keel, wrecked stockade of lost sovereignty.


We hear news of waves which pass through by moonlight,

strewing flotsam of desiccated tinder amongst the bracken,

dung of fugitives splattered under drought-bruised trees.

Wayward storms smoulder offshore, hanging from white-hot skies,

uncertain. Whipbirds crack branches on the escarpment

in warning, bellbirds chime alarms in demented Mandarin.


Down on the sand, Little Nippers run through military rituals

for parents’ reassurance, processionals for nuptials of sea

and mortgaged land. Screams, but no laughter. This is Australia:

play hard, or don’t play at all. New kids dive under,

tumbling clean of strategy, direction, uniform or insignia,

sanded to the bone by a force which only suicides control.


Real estate is a sandcastle here, and the water is cold, cold.

Waves as hard as treated blades hammer the grey incessantly,

Corrode the cliffs, shelve birds upon the sand.

Yet even where it breaks into white, this sea will not shine;

the dimpled skin of the ungovernable just swallows the light,

hungry for the threshold they call The Sapphire Coast.


Originally published by Hallowell Press