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