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Headland daydreaming



Selected poems



Headland daydreaming

These things said he ... Our friend Lazarus sleepeth;

but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. John 11:11


Dawn, and grey gums hang hushed over Abraham's

Bosom, the water ruddy in the creek: This place is new


to my son, who doesn't know that satin bowerbirds

pilfer the brush and has not heard the hardwood bridge


we cross. He's busy tracing each scribble in each gum,

and my hands are full of his hands, faintly heavy —


faintly delicate. A towering deciduous fig

hangs over us; its branches are neural pathways


thin at their tips the way memories thin in time. Heath begins

to flatten along the 'wreck walk' while bloodwoods submerge


beneath the calls of New Holland Honeyeaters

which flicker between combs of coastal banksia and a haze


of scrub she-oaks in brambles. Their greyness disorients,

and we find ourselves guided by the thrum of the ocean.


My boy doesn't speak the language of this land, sand gnaws

at his heels — we stop three times to pour it out, fine as ash.


I know this walk well, its contours and undulations —

recollections of push-bike rides of my youth. The story


of SS Merimbula who heaved herself against the rock ledge

at Whale Point. She survived, but laid herself to the mercy


of the waves and wash of time. Now, tea-tree leaves wound

legs with a salty dew as we emerge from the narrowing


path, our barren Via Dolorosa. Last night, the rock pools emptied

themselves into one another and now the boy is out clutching


at crabs. Gone, are pied oyster catchers, deckhands and travellers.

The last passenger-liner abandoned to the perpetual swallowing


of the tide. The air is seaweed and spray — I pluck periwinkles

from their solitude and throw them into the sunburnt ribs


of her bow. His mother is here too. She's holding a new-born,

milk white like the sands on our feet and cawing back to the black


cockatoos we passed earlier. This time I'll share:

here is where the ashes of their grandfather sleep.




On Visiting Cape St George Lighthouse; or, Standing between you and the rock face

For nothing was simply one thing.

The other Lighthouse was true too.

—Virginia Woolf


The moon holds itself bright and fat

                                                     in an August sky,

                                                                              we follow the brocade hem of sandstone cliffs

and watch the whitewash that swells on the rocks like wind-swept cobwebs.

The horizon is an opal necklace, ethereal

                                                     and at rest on the quiver of day's last light.

The tea trees and coastal saltbush freckle the heath,

                                                                              while I wrap your hand in mine

                                                                              like the shells you now smuggle in your pockets.


In Daraga, this land is for the sea eagles

                                                     but tonight, they're the flightless

                                                                              keepers of a broken lighthouse.

Like a sacked city, it kneels at the close of day and raises its stones for alms.

Your balm is a child's smile

                                                     and intermittent shrieks

                                                                              cascading from the collapsed dome.

We taste the salt in the wet of our eyes and lookout

                                                                              to see the primeval procession

                                                                              of humpbacks passing like laconic wind.


Eleven children once played these cliffs,

                                                     carved their names

                                                                              their dreams in wisps of air

before the brickfielder turned them to dust. Here their maypole,

there wooden horses, and in the papers,

                                                     the fishing pole that cast their father

to bull sharks. But, for you the walls are an Arthurian Keep

and you run — hand outstretched

                                                                              like a sail in the sky, waiting for mine in reply.




Pieces of recollection

Axonopus compressus is not a soft lawn. When short

it cuts at the webbing of your feet, leaving thin

red tongue marks in the grooves of the sole. 'Tolerant,

hardwearing, favourite of infertile soil.' On our trips


to Currarong, it was my job to mow. I'd whip the old

two-stroke Victa, one foot on the rear wheel, a throw

of the wrist in a cracking arc to the wind. Two coughs,

full throttle and set a straight line. My stride tuned


to the reverberations and melody of its muttering.

Sucking in monoxide and fresh cut clippings, a two dollar

per-gallon perfume and filmy sweat coating for my work.

My father would make sure the Four-X beer cans and broken


bottles were cleaned from the cinder block fire place —

built by my grandfather to hide the secret remnants

of his last visit. We weren't to see the half burned

boxes and Bic lighters scattered on the hearth. Evenings


round the fire, we'd watch the bream caught at Long Beach

browning on the rusted grill. Embers warming jacket

potatoes, pumpkin, onion slices, and rings of pineapple.

We'd sit on the hardwood pew he crafted, banana chairs


or the old splitter stump, its top scourged like a convict's

back. There in the warm shade of night I'd push a slither of sooty

concrete back into its place, revealing glass beneath—

a memory, small as the empty matchbox he'd left on the lawn.




Banana cutting

In storms, one of those blustering summer furies,

my sister and I listened to the pounding hearts

above and wondered if water would find its way

through cracked paint to stain the wallpaper with a tea

-red tidemark. The banana fronds slapping and whipping

the glass panes and fibro walls kept us up all night


And I knew come morning I'd take a mattock

to their base, slash 'til only a wet slop was left,

a slough of half cut trunks, roots and strands like fibre

glass. Its sugary sap glistening on the blade

and chunks of flesh smatter my face, like mashed garlic.

A squelch of fluid gushed, peeling its ringed skin


(I knew was wounding them for being) — too close, untamed.

Their fruit never ripened, never grew tall enough

for shade. After the cutting came a heavy dose

of round-Up into weeping bruise. Each year they'd swell

back the same and that night with each lightening burst

our jolted smiles watched the grey gums light up like ghosts.




Begin again

'And hope's a gift you earn.'

— Mark Tredennick 'Running into my youth'


On the country lane

lichens are a palliative for fence posts

Falling into their age, clouds spill over the hills and I ache to

Remember the running wind in my ears. I set out to feel ice


Throbs of air in my chest, as potholes betray road edges and swell

For rain — a pathway in genetic erosion. My joints spurn stones

That calcify themselves to rock walls

lining meadows where winter


Has left its stain in folded reeds along the creek. Each step starts

With grit and sorrow

while memories of the body I once had

Pass. A mixture of pain and prednisone brings hope of weeping grass


Broken by heavy footprints. In the air, a brown falcon hovers

Over its mark in breathless suspension

like a runner caught

on the blocks;

I'm reminded of muscles tensioned for the gun's release


And sense legs slow to follow the heart's intent. But, the gift is in


and discomfort finds a way to numb the bones' protest,

Where once life overtook and movement became a ramshackle dream.


In the field an iron barn collapses its roof at one end,

Herefords huddle for shelter, and for rest,

and it's enough to know

The orchestra of wind and foot-fall still play the same melody.



Peter RammPeter Ramm has regularly published academic articles in the English and History Teacher's Association journals and as an emerging poet has published poems with the Red Room Company, winning their 2017 Poetry Object competition and was Highly Commended in the Henry Lawson Memorial and Literary Society Poetry Competition. He finds inspiration in the landscape and people of South Eastern NSW.

Topic tags: Peter Ramm, poerty



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Existing comments

"the teatrees and coastal saltbush freckle the heath" shells smuggled in pockets What evocative, cleansing, refreshing and joyous imagery; A counter balance to Trumpism, bank outrage, clericalism and pedophilia.

alan roberts | 02 October 2019  

Peter, these are very beautiful, moving, delightful poems, littered with a fine nostalgia, bringing every single thing's inner self to vivid life, as your memories unfurl into landscapes of remaining and loss. Thank you.

Allan Padgett | 04 October 2019  

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