Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site

The treachery of sand


Selected poems



Belief Beach


Anchored in the treachery of sand

wearing waves

until the snip of a certain comber

shreds them landward.

They call this weed.


There are people here too

busy in their pleasure

they stare further out

across the stolid hungers of tankers queued

to feed national necessity, rapacity.


Boardriders have learnt

those arts of waiting.

One child, one gull, the pantomime of chase.


What comes next?

No point to paint anxiety

on that small forest of eelgrass.

That’s ours to bear, our curse.


A granite breakwater, that construct built on collapse

is the human pretence of permanence

a theology of safety…

that most friable of gods.


Below the surface

hardier energies persist.

Though lifeless, sand has its ructions.

Waves bustle in the frenzy above

they too are ignorant of the one before, the one after.


Deluded in the shifting breeze

(that is a life in itself)

one placid pensioner

will not go deeper than his knees.

He is content in the fake permanence beneath his feet

that is neither loyal nor solid

as it buries abandons undermines

all that is somehow held to be true.



Just Saying…


Love is the answer.

Try that argument

in the camp on the Turkish border.


Beneath American summers

a woman is losing her mind.

Tax policy has made no difference

& healthcare, well you gotta laugh

or rage.


Every step I’ve taken

has been on stolen land, guilt builds

like soil formation & blood has always been

the best fertilizer so our crops shimmer, vitamins

sizzle in the sun as an ageing world salivates.


We are carp, gasping on the banks

of the river of our own design.

Do I bite, bale

or just flap about uselessly?


This weekend, further up in the hills

a 'controlled burn', 'hazard reduction'.

Look down the valley

Perth wears the smoke like some kind of armour.

Like us all, yes it does inhale.


When the petitions arrive, I sign.

Some women aspire to emulate male extremity,

not a moment too soon.

Men are puzzled but there’s a kind of way forward.

First People are changing all that needs to

& Bren is just what the component parts feel —

a person, unworried about gender.


Another march? Do we buccaneers

turn pamphleteer again? Brochures

are no more readable when soaked in tears.


This old carp won’t refuse

any lifejacket offered.

With impotence as the new flag

we compose/decompose at a bright future.



Off National Park Rd


Despite this morning’s poorly named downpour

there is no falling at the waterfall

no pooling at this pool.


This day both placid &

adamant alongside unapologetic winter — 25°.


I wish I could leave words to other people

me lacking both the succinctness of wandoos

& the promiscuity of the breeze.


A 10-year-old is shepherded past —

it’s the worst walk I’ve ever had! But

I just wait for the viral silence to return,

my reliable page.


The rust & glower of stonefell.

Staunch mantis green concedes to worn linen

shade rations itself

& is infested with ants.

Does the shrike react when I say it is elegant?


But there are shoots everywhere…

a cuneiform of life

beneath notice, against the odds.


I am thirst

& trespass.

One cannot plough the scrub into linebreaks.

Could sow all the words I have

& the magpies would still think themselves free

or at least have no notion of a cage.


Envelopes won’t seal the wounds,

feet haven’t got the rhythm

& my sweat is tasteless.



I Just Listened


Are you at peace?

No, I’m old.

Those blackened Jarrahs

they’d tasted fire.

Life fled their branches

leaves aflame threw themselves at the sun

& something of themselves wrapped the valley

until a vagrant southerly stole that smoke away.


But life holds no grudges

it’s opportunistic in its seizure.

That great stolid forest stands

as it swarms with rebirth.


I dropped a poem

somewhere on the trail.

Just more tephra.

Can’t remember now, it was perhaps

something about that kangaroo

or a climatic tilt.

Can’t go back to find it

perhaps another hiker

will have a brief smile.

More likely ants

& weather

will carry that paper back to the soil.





The amazement when we discovered our 5 year old

couldn’t lie properly.

She fell all over it,

wrecked the furniture of that lean-to fabrication

then gave up, abject surrender.


We were sure she’d grow into it.

That versatile tool, life becomes bearable when

you wear a warmly-fluffed, semi-fictitious past.


Love hurts but the pain is imaginary.

All the scars come from battles

that lead to real victories

in gold & fame.

We are soldiers who parted the field amicably,

a battleground where there was ruination.


& even that gore was essential —

off stage we changed clothes, returned dressed as workers

built bloodbrick huts to house our libraries & stages.

We sometimes fail to recognize them

space & the spiel have merged so flawlessly

we promise forever, look humble

keep everything going.


Then it falls apart… families, friends.

The heart is just a pump.

Perhaps mutual neglect

or was it abusive, those years

of struggle & concession

doing our best?


Endings always clutter the horizon.

When we are dead

Close Friends will pretend to mourn

to a point where their nasal congestion

is an approximation of sobbing.

In truth they grieve their position as next in queue.


But all this maybe misses the point.

They say that forcing a smile doesn’t mimic rictus,

it actually beats depression.

Lies feed lives, an enrichment

deep in our invented souls.

My lover is a good person

& yes I adore her components, the totality.

No alternative

there are others who love no one, some of them

are bitter or lonely, want my delusion as theirs 

are dry & tasteless. 


A generosity of legerdemain

will always ease us out or in.



Les WicksLes Wicks has been published across 19 countries in ten languages. His most recent book is Getting By Not Fitting In (Island, 2016).

Topic tags: Les Wicks, poetry



submit a comment

Similar Articles

Home is where the work is

  • Catherine Marshall
  • 19 March 2020

Overnight, my workplace has doubled in size. This once quiet space, filled with just the click-clacking of a keyboard and the occasional waft of classical music, now rumbles with the sound of my husband’s voice. He goes from one call to the next, discussing spreadsheets and renewals, holding conference calls and informal chats and performance reviews.


Stateless and the inhumanity of detention

  • Andrew Hamilton
  • 18 March 2020

I've been watching Stateless, the ABC drama about Australia’s immigration detention system, with some reluctance. Not because it is poor, but because it is so powerful.