gulp – joanne burns

                      fish and chips on the pier
                      at watson’s bay, or is it
                      calamari – something we
                      never ate in the 50s un-
                      fortunately; but it’s february
                      2012 and the daytrippers
                      walk right off the ferry
                      for the seafood miracles
                      in a convenient box, you
                      nibble at tails of tropes:
                      ‘pilgrimage’ or ‘the biblical’;
                      you’d probably like the lot –
                      a fisherman’s basket [make
                      that fishergirl’s] but you’ll
                      leave the spicy plum sauce
                      for the gulls multiplying like
                      sour dough rolls
                                                    from where you sit you
                                                    see it again across the
                                                    pier’s narrow boardwalk;
                                                    a shrouded revenant or
                                                    the full tonnage of grey
                                                    white flesh: a huge
                                                    shape hanging upside down
                                                    at the 1950s shark weighing
                                                    station, with its giant teeth
                                                    in the last snarl of death,
                                                    white pointer or grey ‘nurse’
                                                    [you were about to have
                                                    your tonsils out at the ‘war
                                                    memorial’ hos]
                                                    you can’t recall how many
                                                    years since this station was
                                                    moved back towards deeper
                                                    water to a less prominent
                                                    spot but here it is now – a
                                                    visitation – only a couple of
                                                    metres away, at 12 o’clock
                                                    from your café table, in the
                                                    centre of your nostalgia lens:
                                                    that fizz of awe relief and
                                                    terror that a speedoed
                                                    child, towel over a shoulder,
                                                    might have felt in her guts
                                                    looking up at that jagged
                                                    enormity after a lesson
                                                    inside the rusty protection
                                                    of the swimming baths’ rods
                      now 60 years later you
                      munch through your fish
                      pack and you shut the
                      lens, almost aware you’re
                      just another link in the
                      food chain, barnacled
                      on; today you won’t trek up
                      the hill towards the cliffs
                      where trippers flock to
                      gape at the site of ‘the
                      dunbar’ shipwreck [those
                      gulps of indelible death],or
                      up the track to suicide’s
                      crags; behind you piles
                      of white lunchboxes thud,
                      anonymous, spent