Poetry | The Offing

On the bluff, by the lookout, off the path, in the scrub, no one is coming
     but us. And through the coin-operated binoculars it is clear we are going
for it—in the surf, on a weekday, beyond the flags, we are creating
     a little churn within the great one; and we are there again at night, conducting 
     a languid choir of glowing
     phytoplankton; and we’re ducking
behind the wreck, further up, where the angelfish are flashing
     in and out of the rust, and the moon wrasse nose you while egg-hunting;
and we’re puffing like seal pups against a mica proscenium, edging
     toward the place where the cowrie shell’s lip lies glistening,
     and the cucumbers are inching, and one is bashfully squirting;
and we’re fumbling about the fire starters, the newspaper, the kindling
     because we didn’t quite make it to the caravan’s awning;
and we’re tangled in snake vine, its bonsai persimmon dehiscing;


and we’re stirring in the dunes, nude as beach beans, amid the gawping
     mauve throats of the morning
     glory, ribboned with the crepe of their seedpod pith, crisping.

And we needn’t be home by evening,
for the egret has folded the washing,
and the shovel-nose doesn’t mind ironing,           
and the rock oyster’s done the recycling.

No, we needn’t come home at evening,
for the cormorant’s happily monitoring
the little ones, and the coral is hinting
it will soon be finished its photocopying.

So we’re at it again, on elbows, knees, pawing and scooping, shoveling
     practically everything
into the bucket: handfuls of hairy cockles, sloping horse mussels, and a thing


that could have been a gold-mouthed periwinkle; and we’re singing
     while connecting
the hose; and we’re dancing while turning
     the tap on; and we’re praising while rinsing
all kinds of Venus clam—pleated, sculpted, swollen—conceiving
     a bracelet for an imminent beach christening.

     And the veteran lifeguard is averting
     her peregrine eyes; she just keeps scanning
     the rip and triple-checking the shark netting, smirking.

For nothing
on earth is distracting,
not even the spurned cry of the lapwing;

no nothing
we hear is off-putting,


               not even the totalitarian yawn of the Boeing;

and nothing
that lurks is disturbing,
not even the bung note of the wobbegong,

when the shoaling wave of our toes begins curling,
and the fetch at the pinch where it gathers is surging,
and the tent of the shore break is cresting,
and the firmament blurs with the ceiling.

Cocooned in our loose weave of salt, you’d think we were shimmying
     seahorse spawn, but zoom in and see: we are scrubbing

each other like pumice, resolving
the dilemma of skin, shirring
a sleeve of sea, sounding
the offing.

Jaya Savige

Jaya Savige was born in Sydney, grew up in Moreton Bay and Brisbane, and lives in London, where he lectures at the New College of the Humanities at Northeastern. He is the author of Latecomers (UQP, 2005), which won the New South Wales Premier’s Kenneth Slessor Prize, and Surface to Air (UQP, 2011), shortlisted for The Age Poetry Book of the Year. His next collection, Change Machine, is forthcoming from UQP in 2020.

More by Jaya Savige ›

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