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