'Four Limpets' by Ben Walter | States of Poetry Tasmania - Series Two

While we circled space,
the paint-stained grass
and the dogs in-and-out
huffing their thoughts, he’d told us
how they tried to gill our work and rest
in languid backyard bays. The bolts
in rock, firm in life and death, were now
exempt from clasping hooks to bring
the bait aboard, protected
like the tiger, like the quolls;
like rocks, we thought
like rocks and sand and water. Well,
rules drift out with tides, and now
on a coastline full of empty hands, four
outcrops wait on a rare rock raised. Levering,
I made one limpet lost, its tiny foot or hand
stepping round the emptiness, clenching
its shell like that would save it. Afterward,
I thought of Bishop’s fish; no
grandeur in that strange thumb
waiting in my palm, no
rights of kingship or respect, no
victories to stand on or trumpets to blast. A drab
shell opening a place to sit, rod sleeping, in
hollow water near the jetty. So why
the strange projection, my own
arriving in another when the knife
wavered over the limpet and my hand,
limpet and hand, till both hands dropped
to paint an old picture on the rocks?

Ben Walter