for Nick

It is hard to imagine how desolate the sea.
Mars on the horizon, a fickle half-moon,
the currawong’s arc rending the day with a shrill song,
a sweet and lonely song.

At least this morning the sun is bandaged,
blistering through the skies, burnt melaleuca,
soap mallee, sugar gum and wattle.

Winter’s dead stalks are springtime veins, shivering
watertight in the wind, which has its way,
all over. So what of our choosing?
To the east and the west of Vivonne Bay
the dunes are a crematorium,
vestiges of a charred isthmus, French bays,
English rivers, pony clubs, slaughterhouses,
rock shelves where seal pups were dragged,
clubbed, skinned and salted. From 1803
bloodlines mingled so the smaller, finer wallaby
knows, instinctively, not to trust despite
vegetable peelings I offer. They watch  
through my kitchen window. I’ve read about
some women who drowned, trying to escape
the stigma of names like ‘Emma’, ‘Puss’ and ‘Polecat,’
the disappearing emu, possums sold for rum,
tobacco, salt, silver, eucalyptus grease,
the tonnes of yacca gum it took to make explosives.
Fire taught me to abandon everything.
When fire comes, shelter on a whalebone,
lay by a river, wither in a shepherd’s grave.
That is history.
To learn I am nothing
to put the darkness back where it belongs,
to wet my tongue with rain,
to swallow the past, as one nourished,
to stay
wherever the wind should scatter.