Tuesday, March 31, 2009

in which the fish swims in the dark

In the dark autumn morning, there is only starlight:
high on the rockface I see a disembodied face glow blue, move about and disappear. A flickering ghost, up on the cliff.

But no, it is the boy who climbs there very day before dawn. I see in the velvety dark monochrome the pale sharp angle of his bare legs, as he sits with his knees to his chin
in a cleft in the rock above me.

Below him I tread, arms out, trustingly through the dark surf, feeling my way with my feet so slowly.

I wonder what the boy is doing, gazing out to sea each day in the dark?
Perhaps he is thinking of a love far away, separated yet connected by the ocean between them.
He flicks open his phone and I see his face light up blue again, briefly before he disappears.

He must be watching me tread blindly through the waves at the bottom of the cliff.

There is no light on the rock platform, none at all, just the great dark shapes and the pale invisible glow of the water: I launch myself so silently horizontal across the surface of the rockpool. The clouds of phosphorescence which burst from my moving hands in the blackness
mirror the clouds of stars in the sky.

I move across the water, and look at the vague shapes below, my feet remaining level with my head: I wish not to tread upon the fat soft octopus who lives here,
the blackfish still asleep in their holes. I look at the stars.

I dream along with the boy and our combined thoughts tangle across the surface of the water: go, I say to my dreams: go!
Speak of love, all along that dark horizon, and even further still.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

in which the fish greets a beautiful day

What are you crying about?
said the sea

I'm not entirely certain,
I said to the sea, surprised to be noticed so.

Come here, said the sea.

I looked at the sea, wary of trickery.
You just wish to pull my hair, bang my head or get up my nose,
I said to the sea

Come here, said the sea.
So I did.

There are no tears here.

the sea said to me,
and held me tight.

The sea was right.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

in which the sea throws the children high up into the air

Backwash from Isabella on Vimeo.

On the hottest day of the year, the waves were hitting the cliff and rebounding back out to sea. It's called backwash:
The children like to play in it, and it seems
the sea likes it too.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

in which the fish crosses the harbour

I’m crossing my waterway, just at the place where the great space between the two heads is widest and at its most silvery. A film of salt mist hangs low, the sky is whispering something to itself in the faintest of voices, something about the shifting of the light, something about autumn: high fans of cloud on pale blue.

photo: David Helsham

I’m crossing my waterway and I swing around and I’m facing up the harbour, I can squint and gaze in to bushland for a second and pretend everything else has blown away, away, and it’s just this ferry and a harbour full of trees. I’m watching this waterway for the timeline of my life and hours which become years sitting here one day with icecream one day with a book on eco-feminism and a lucky charm. I am watching the bays and beaches slide past, small boats in the light. Three enormous cruise boats larger than office blocks.

david helsham

I am running along the concourse, past the Opera House which is gleaming, as it does, and remembering the way I used to throw champagne glasses into the dark water on summer nights and intermission: the noise a satisfying whomp as they hit the water face down. Thinking back, it was quite a silly thing to do.

David Helsham

I am standing above the waterway and wondering what to do with my charm? I tie it to the back of my head. I have never been in this water, only stared into it with ferry funk in my nose. I have never stood over it, poised in a swimming costume. A helicopter hovers above, lens pointing down: I do not know that I will see myself on the evening news, see myself from above take off into the air and land in my waterway with hardly a splash.

 David Helsham: fish with miss jane birdbaby 

It is dark and quiet in my waterway, olivebrown and blurry. Below me a frieze of pale jellyfish glow with blue light, just beyond my fingertips. I am swimming stroke for stroke with my friend, at each breath we face each other. I like this, because I realise h breath carries an undercurrent of fright that I had not expected. We swim together, stroke for stroke, Heidi and I, until she is suddenly lost in a flurry around the buoy. I find a new companion, until she too disappears, and I am left at the head of the pack with no trail of bubbles to ride on, just empty dark reaches of water, the floral print of jellyfish below.
Alone in the dark, I race along, flying in unknown water.


I feel a soft touch on my foot and turn over: someone is on my heels, riding in my blindspot, riding my drag.
This means I am at the front: I’m winning. I look up and all I can see are the stragglers from the previous wave.
I swim between and around them, trying to lose my follower, weaving and darting. The sea is choppy here, and my stroke falters from all this looking up and changing direction. I catch glimpses of the hoop pines in the Botanical gardens and the white sails of the opera house shouldering into view between the fluid breaths of olive green.
She is up the stairs from behind, she from the blindspot, and across the pontoon before I know it, half a breath apart we cross. My cheeks glow crimson. Second place. She has saved her breath, dragged along in my tide, and leaps ahead.

I cross the wharf then, to the convict-hewn steps, the sandstone worn, the honeycomb pattern making a swooshing noise as the water rocks back and forth across it. I descend back into the water and float on the surface beneath the sails of the Opera House, its sharp shoulders rupturing the blue silk of the sky, and let my hair out. I reach out with my arms, my legs, and lie there, rocking.
I lie on my back and look up at the people staring down, leaning on their elbows on the stone wall. My cheeks are still burning and the world is upside down.

I am crossing my waterway with the enormous shriek of hundreds of people, going out for the day. I am going home. the ferry is a riot of prams and bags and hats. I smell the salt of the open sea, twist my wet hair into a knot on the back of my head, pat the secret talisman in my bag: I am safe. We all are. I am home again.