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Trying hard not to die

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Mueller River estuary

Over the curve of the dune
that bars the old mouth of the estuary
and sends the freezing
chocolate-silted water flowing east half a click
before it disgorges in the sea,
still stands the same tall eucalypt,
wind-ripped to the shape of a claw,
and to landward a coast banksia,
a black-green maw
big as a building.
For fear of that claw above,
and the deep darkness below,
we would not take that way
through the dunes at night.

All else is gone. Wind and tide destroy
and remake, traceless.
Creepers have taken
the warm stretch of sand in the lee of the wind
where we once made a man-trap
of sticks and spinifex. The wind
has flattened the dune-grassed bluff
where we sat to drink warm filched beer
with the boys from the next camp, so giddy
with the idea of ourselves
we could barely speak.

When I pierce the taut sheet of the wind
at the crest of the dunes
and stagger to the shore,
Ninety Mile Beach is entirely
itself: too bleak for beauty, salt-haze thickening
to an inconsolable horizon. But the foreshore dunes
are a dough rebaked
as a wholly different loaf;
sand fills the granite pools
where we once caught crabs in buckets,
bares unknown rocks.

Something I thought to be true
has proved to be false, and I stand holding
the charlatan's empty hat.
Such a relief, never to have had children,
not to have propped above another's door
the bucket of this foolish

Still an angry pair of plovers patrols
the vanguard line of dunes.
Their kind lives twenty years —
this may be the same wicked pair
that made me run and scream.
Is this my consolation? It flies
straight at my eye, yellow-beaked,
crying out like a woman struck
from a height, and falling.


I am driving with my father

I am driving with my father
in a place where green and stony hills
rise like mesa, thin and steep,
like the holes in Swiss cheese inverted.
A narrow road winds up
and down and around.
We have to hurry.
My tires plough the verge:
dirt falls to nothing,
starbursts of mustard-gold.
I am trying too hard not to die, to worry
if my father is angry.
Someone else is in the car:

Now we're in Port Arthur, where Mum and Dad
were once together, still in love.
A ruin of sandstone bricks
on a plateau washing away from within,
holes in the ground beneath
as if we're looking down the barrel of stalactites
from a hole in the roof of a cave.
I am so careful, so slow.

No, it's not Port Arthur, it's College Crescent and
all the students' dormitories
are falling down in the holes in the ground.
I try to drive but all the students
want to talk to me, they have a form
they had to fill out; now no-one
is taking the form, or doing the thing
they need to do with the form.
Everyone is disappointed in me. In the corner
the office has crumbled
to the green abyss.

Where is my father? By the car
by a fallen colonnade, like ancient Rome.
The other person lurks behind a column,
face in shadow. Who is that?

But we need to go: we need to drive
up a mesa thin as a needle in the distance,
ascend a narrow spiral of road
into the clouds, where surely I will miss the turn
and let us fall and die:
I am eager to begin.


Belinda Rule headshotBelinda Rule is a candidate for Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing at RMIT. Otherwise she writes software specifications and makes websites.

Topic tags: Belinda Rule, poetry



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Existing comments

Belinda, I love 'the other person' allusion - more than we see clearly! So reality is sometimes obscure but often painful - so true. Keep writing

Michael Nelson | 24 July 2013  

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