States of Poetry 2016 - Western Australia | from ‘Emails to Manila’ by Graham Kershaw

IV

Bottle-green air,
red gravel, bark and branch,
filigrees of hazel,
blanketing roar of ocean,
inlet glints of stone.
Depths of quiet sounded out
in ducks' satellite pings.
There's no ribbon to tie these things neatly in train,
no music to make it sound okay;
just me awake, reading your email
as cockatoos swing and chime
high in karri's campanile.

Wherever we are,
whatever the trees and air,
there's a time we share
when the crown of the sky whitens and glows,
when the spectrum of things which divide us
– the distance, the history,
the lies, fears and ties –
retreat like shadows
around a firelit forest clearing.
And yet... the strange thing is...
that's when I feel most keenly
the happenstance of grieving.

 

VI

Our friend told me
he had entered his body
and found pleasure and comfort there.
You're swimming Bataan
on a youthful morning
to wash away thoughts of the world
and the pain.
But how heavy the body can feel after,
how steep the rise to dry land,
how hard to understand why
the pleasure of the moment
should carry such gravity.

For there is the water,
and here is your body,
knowing it can swim and not harm the sea
and yet there's the sign, saying,
'Danger. Men have died here.
Think of those who may drown, saving you.'
All places have their histories,
even as the water befriends our bodies
so indiscriminately;
you swimming there and I swimming here;
one body of water,
receiving dawn's thoughtless kisses.

 

VII

I had the strangest feeling,
coming out of the water,
as if I'd left someone behind,
or failed to gather up something in my arms.
White sand gleamed between granite
boulders, dunes bled tea,
sweating down secret cracks
to glaze the stone with slime,
tanning sea and sand.
Female wrens hopped
dark streams of weed,
foraging, quick and grey
against the cream,
yet I felt quite bereft
stalking back to my towel,
Empty hands dangling,
as if the reason for swimming
had escaped me out there.

 

Graham Kershaw

Recording

Graham Kershaw

Graham Kershaw

Graham Kershaw is the author of novels, stories, essays and poetry. Originally from England, he now lives in Denmark, on Western Australia’s south coast, where he practises as an architect and runs Hallowell Press, a small publishing project with a regional focus.

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