Two Poems by Judith Beveridge

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.          

About the contributor

Judith Beveridge
Judith Beveridge is a Sydney-based poet and recipient of multiple awards, latterly the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards for Poetry (2019). She has published six volumes of poetry and was poetry editor for Meanjin (2005–2015). Her work is studied in schools and universities and widely translated. Her latest volume is Sun Music: New and Selected Poems (Giramondo 2018).

Related Articles

‘Grendel’s Mother’ by Featured Writer, Una Mannion

'The baby’s soft fist brushed her cheek and the light touch felt like reproach. Pause. Be kinder.'

Poetry by Patricia Hemminger

Patricia Hemminger grew up in rural East Yorkshire, UK and her poems are often inspired by nature.

Two Poems by Robyn Rowland

A searing honesty coupled with deep compassion is the hallmark of these superb works by Australian poet Robyn Rowland. And finally, a poem dedicated to the unsung heroes working in aged care!

More Like This

Poetry by Kathleen McCracken

Kathleen McCracken is the recipient of the University of Toronto Review's Editor's Choice Award for Poetry, the Anne Szumigalski Editor's Prize, the Glebe House Harmony Community Trust Poetry Award and the 2017 Poetry Ireland/Tyrone Guthrie Residency Bursary.

Poetry by Margaret Randall

During the 1960s, Randall co-founded and edited EL CORNO EMPLUMADO, a bilingual poetry journal that in 8 years published 700 writers from more than 30 countries.

Aphonia; Short fiction by Kirsty Lewin

Kirsty Lewin has put aside the first draft of a novel to focus on short stories. She is developing an interest in the absurd, the bizarre, and magical realism.

A NECESSARY ASSUMPTION 
by D.P. Snyder

D.P Snyder is a member of the Under the Volcano writer's group in Tepoztlán, México and lives in North Carolina, USA

A Poem by Bogusia Wardein

A moment in time captured elegantly by Bogusia Wardein