Published 2 October 202030 October 2020 · Main Posts Poetry | Shell David Stavanger 1. Life is measured by the people who will miss you before you are gone. The depreciation of the spirit starts the moment you withdraw from the fight. Flesh is not always willing it is not always weak. My body is revolting against the notion of keeping up appearances, I buy a black vinyl jacket in the name of art. The doctor looks me in the eye and asks about intention: I think about the voices within the deconstructed house next door everything exposed to the elements, fenced off and repossessed. There are demons that ask too much. I could hang there, rafters and no ceiling, a cliché waiting to see the sky above as an act of self-love. Your last breath is still a living breath, the TV told me this. I am remote but turned on to the fact that you are here, despite the uneasy division of labour being what it is. 2. I watch you by the shore collecting plastic as if they are shells and I know it matters – you are by the right ocean on the wrong beach. I join you and find a syringe but no needle, the incomplete cycle of nature. There is a body by the rocks and it is mine, the sun goes to work against the odds, finds the spare parts that shine. You know which birds are protected which ones our dog can chase, barking madly at the idea of there being other dogs in this world. A sea eagle captures the wind’s passing sigh. There are only retirees at this time of day, franking credits seem conceptual if you have emphysema. There is a woman who grew up here, smoking as she strolls the beach coughing, lungs holding gravity at bay. You are often present when the light is not. I am often missing when there is much to be seen. There’s no accounting for people. 3. The rock pools here reflect what we fear to say to each other in bed. There is tenderness in captured saltwater my hand runs along wet rock like it’s your back. When the waves hit the face of this platform we stand together fully alive, spray rises into the air’s embrace then dashes back to land, leaving behind its desire to undress us. We often swim on dusk when the water looks shark, as if there is a present danger in diving underneath our thoughts. You stay in longer than most, and that is why nothing will ever eat you. Afterwards we walk the shore in towels trying to translate the factories non-stop emissions by the parking lot some part of us high tide, some part of us steel. The sea is an industry that never ceases. Shift workers stare out to the deep on breaks. People often talk with you as if they know you. People often wait for me to talk. I found a shell today that you asked me to keep, so I did. ‘Shell’ previously appeared in Case Notes (UWAP, 2020). David Stavanger David Stavanger is an Australian poet, performer, cultural producer, editor and lapsed psychologist. His first full-length poetry collection The Special (UQP, 2014) was awarded the Arts Queensland Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize and the Wesley Michel Wright Poetry Prize. David co-directed Queensland Poetry Festival (2015–2017) and is a Senior Project Manager at Red Room Poetry. He is the co-editor of Australian Poetry Journal 8.2 Spoken, Rabbit 27 Tense, The Moth (Autumn 2020) and SOLID AIR: Collected Australian & New Zealand Spoken Word (UQP, 2019.) His new collection is Case Notes (UWAP, 2020). David is also sometimes known as Green Room-nominated spoken weird artist Ghostboy. These days he lives between the stage and the page. More by David Stavanger › Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places. If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate. Related articles & Essays First published in Overland Issue 228 10 November 202311 November 2023 · Subscriberthon 2023 On the final day of Subscriberthon, Overland’s most important members get to have their say Editorial Team BORIS A quick guide to another year of Overland, from your trusty feline, Boris. I liked the ginger cat story, though it made my human cry. I liked the talking cat, too, but I’m definitely in the “not wasting my time learning to talk” camp. But reading is good. And writing is fun, though it’s been challenging […] 1 First published in Overland Issue 228 9 November 20239 November 2023 · Subscriberthon 2023 On the second-last day of Subscriberthon, Overland’s co-chief editor Evelyn Araluen speaks truth to power Editorial Team To my friends and comrades, I’m not sure if there’s language to communicate how this last month has utterly changed me. This time a few weeks ago the busyness and chaos of bricolage arts and academic labour had so efficiently distracted me from my anxiety about the upcoming referendum that I forgot to prepare myself for its inevitable conclusion.