HIGH SEAS, MANLY BEACH
Surfers in wetsuits, tight as inner-tubes, watch the swell build –
most keep behind the breakers in chop that’s a slough
of white feathers – and as each wave breaks
it’s as though a line of warring chiefs wearing high headdresses
were falling backwards off their steeds.
A gale blores through the Norfolk pines shearing off branches;
gulls holster their wings; litter scatters, a salvo of missiles –
and though spray blows in scurfy drifts and sand pricks
our legs with quick dispatches of static shock,
though the cliffs are blotted out in tissue paper air,
we can’t look away from those few surfers who rise
high on their boards, arms held out with the poise and sureness
of wings, knees half bent, no entreating posture,
but braced resolutely on their platforms of pride, podiums
of prestige, the ones who might just ride the baritone cascades.
WASHER WOMEN AT THE RIVER
No cloth too little for them to rinse, no stain or stench
too large for them to wring away with their small,
hennaed hands. They make a rhythm dashing cloth
on rock: a thump and a tinkling counterpoint –
their bracelets’ glassy spills. I listen to them carry
laughter to their labour like full pitchers – they sing,
they quip, they work in lissome rhythm loosening
dirt, slapping away our loudest and our quietest stains,
our most extravagant and our most mundane.
The days flow by like sunlit treacle and we give
them more to wash, a never-ending sequel to our
stories of blood, sweat, muck. Even the air seems
cleansed by starry explosions of water on rock.
I praise them at their rounds, beating cloth on rock,
freeing us of our guilt, the soiled exposure of our
limbs and loins, all the errands of our careless hands.